Getting to Yes

Anniversaries abound this week.

Today is July 4. In the “United States of America” it’s their Independence Day. July 1 was my country’s national anniversary, at least from the settler perspective. More personal for me is that today is my wedding anniversary. And, my partner and I are still together after 35 years!

No matter if its personal or national body or global community, I tend to contextualize relationship and working together, especially long-term ventures, from a Yes, and… mindset. I’ve taken that tact every since my conflict resolution studies at the Justice Institute of BC over two decades ago. Through those studies, I came to  know the interest-based conflict resolution approach, epitomized in the 1981 book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Bless Roger Fisher & William Ury, and the Harvard Negotiation Project.

A central theme from the Getting to Yes book was “an unconditionally constructive strategy”, a framework for healthier negotiations and relationships. It continues to serve as a roadmap for me, in personal, work and public spheres. It speaks to life’s yin yang. For the record, here it is:

An Unconditionally Constructive Strategy

Do only those things that are both good for the relationship and good for us, whether or not they reciprocate.

  1. Rationality. Even if they are acting emotionally, balance emotions with reason.
  2. Understanding. Even if they misunderstand us, try to understand them.
  3. Communication. Even if they are not listening, consult them before deciding on matters that affect them.
  4. Reliability. Even if they are trying to deceive us, neither trust them nor deceive them; be reliable.
  5. Noncoercive modes of influence. Even if they are trying to coerce us, neither yield to that coercion nor try to coerce them; be open to persuasion and try to persuade them.
  6. Acceptance. even if they reject us and our concerns as unworthy of their consideration, accept them as worthy of our consideration, care about them, and be open to learning from them.


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