Let's say you're trying to convince a new employer to sweeten its job offer to you. Or perhaps you're buying or selling a company. Or maybe you're even solving for peace in the Middle East. If any of these scenarios is yours, Roger Fisher, Daniel Shapiro, and their colleagues at the Harvard Negotiation Project have ideas that they would like to share. Fisher's previous book, Getting to Yes, stands today as a seminal work in negotiations theory. Businesspeople in a wide variety of industries have drawn from the book's tips for deal-making and its larger framework for "interest-based negotiation", which focuses on understanding each side's interests and working together to produce proverbial win-win outcomes. In Beyond Reason, Fisher and Shapiro go one step further.
To the authors' credit, they started this new book with a clear understanding of the previous one's chief shortcoming. Though Getting to Yes introduced a powerful paradigm for negotiations, it did not fully address a critical element of most deals: emotions, and the messy human details that can distract from purely rational decision-making. If both negotiators are consistently lucid, fair, and calm, the game has a certain set of rules, but if--as in most situations--the different parties get excited, angry, sad, insulted, and so on, then those rules change. That expanded focus forms the basis for Beyond Reason.
Fisher and Shapiro have structured this latest work around five key emotions which they identify as most critical to productive negotiations. Even though each situation has its own dynamics, they point to appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status, and role as the most important for making each party comfortable enough to grasp the principles of rationality that maximize the chances for a win-win result.
Critics may deride this book as still too simplistic, too black-and-white, and unappreciative of life's shades of gray. The authors' pragmatic bent comes in the book's final two chapters. One takes readers through the overall process for negotiations--not just the parry-and-thrust of conversations with the other party, but also pre-conversation preparation. It's in this preparatory stage, the authors contend, where a thoughtful consideration of potential emotional dynamics can help prevent later problems. To synthesize many of the lessons they impart, Fisher and Shapiro then close their work by inviting guest commentary from the former President of Ecuador, Jamil Mahuad, who explains how he applied interest-based negotiations theory to highly charged negotiations between his country and Peru, on a border dispute in the late 1990s. It's this kind of real-life application of Fisher and Shapiro's theories that continue to give them relevance. --Peter Han