Whether you realize it or not, you are using the skill of negotiation every day. You negotiate with a colleague on who does what part of a shared project. You negotiate with HR about your vacation time. You negotiate salaries and benefits with your employees.
At home, you negotiate with your spouse about who will make dinner. You may negotiate with your kids about chores or homework that need to be done before they play video games.
Negotiation helps you handle a situation without argument or hurt feelings. Negotiation is about compromise, and it is one of the most valuable soft skills in business and personal relationships.
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Five of the Best books on Negotiation
If you would like to learn how to become a better negotiator, we have taken a look at some of the best books on the subject. With the benefit of these author’s experiences and research, you can learn how to find workable solutions to problems and feel satisfied in the process.
Books on negotiation – Getting More by Stuart Diamond (2010)
This book is based on Stuart Diamond’s popular Wharton Business School course. He uses two decades of research and his experience as a journalist, an attorney and as a business consultant to offer advice for negotiation in getting better prices on goods and services and finding solutions to personal conflicts.
Diamond begins his book with the promise that anyone can become a better negotiator and, as a result, have a more successful life. His six main rules of negotiation include:
- Force yourself to be calm.
- Prepare, even if you have limited time.
- Find the decision maker.
- Focus on the goal, not on who is right.
- Make human contact.
- Acknowledge and value the other person’s position.
Favorite quote: “Not having a goal is like getting into the car without knowing where you are headed. And not checking your goals is like not checking the map along the way. People often get distracted in the middle of a meeting or a campaign. New information often emerges. Unless you check your goals at intervals, you are less likely to meet them. It doesn’t matter how well you know the company or the person.”
Books on negotiation – Everyday Negotiation by Deborah Kolb & Judith Williams (2003)
This book gets down to some of the basics of dealing with difficult workplace situations. Many of our most important struggles have nothing to do with money but are all about relationships. You will learn how to stop working against your own best interests, how to increase your bargaining sills and how to engage someone else in a meaningful discussion that has the goal of reaching a compromise.
Favorite Quote: “Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy. By not taking the simple steps needed to empower yourself in a negotiation, you can get in your own way even before the actual bargaining starts. Underestimating one’s own strengths is as deadly as overestimating those of a bargaining counterpart, but it is common.”
Books on negotiation – Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce Patton (1981)
This book set the bar for books on negotiation, and its advice has held up pretty well since its publication more than 30 years ago. Based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, Getting to Yes provides a clear strategy for coming to agreements and compromises in all kinds of conflicts.
You will learn how to separate the person from the problem; focus on shared interests, not positions; work to create solutions that both parties can live with; and work successfully with people who do not play by the rules.
Favorite Quote: “Principled negotiation shows you how to obtain what you are entitled to and still be decent. It enables you to be fair while protecting yourself against those who would take advantage of your fairness.”
Books on negotiation – Bargaining with the Devil by Robert Mnookin (2011)
This book takes a different and somewhat philosophical look at negotiation. When is it wrong or even immoral to negotiate with someone? Using historical examples (such as Churchill refusing to bargain with Hitler and Nelson Mandela’s negotiations with the South African government), current events and numerous case studies, Mnookin helps us examine the heart of the negotiation process.
The central question of this thought-provoking book and relevant book is: In any particular conflict, how should you decide whether it makes sense to negotiate?
Favorite Quote: “This is not simply an academic debate about definitions. In my field, an air of taboo hangs around the word ‘evil.’…In my view, intentionally inflicting grievous harm on human beings without a compelling justification is evil… The ‘negative’ traps, particularly demonization, stoke our anger and tempt us to refuse to negotiate when we probably should. The ‘positive’ traps, although far less common in disputes like these, may tempt us to negotiate when perhaps we shouldn’t.”
Books on negotiation – Bargaining for Advantage by G. Richard Shell (2006)
Using facts, statistics and storytelling, G. Richard Shell, director of the Wharton Executive Negotiation Workshop, provides a step-by-step guide for improving your negotiation skills. He includes modern pitfalls such as the problems that can come from negotiating by email or text and from not knowing or addressing gender or cultural differences in the negotiation process.
The practical book offers checklists at the end of its sections so you can keep track of your progress. If you previously thought of business negotiations as involving hardball tactics, you will learn about tailoring your communication style to each situation.
Favorite Quote: “Your personal bargaining styles are nothing more (or less) than your inclination or predispositions to make certain moves when you are negotiating. These inclinations can come from many sources – childhood, family, early professional experiences, mentors, ethical systems or beliefs… But I strongly believe that most of us have a set of core personality traits that make radical changes in our basic bargaining preferences difficult.”