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Getting Past No


Book reviews > Getting Past No


Ury, W. (1991). Getting Past No, London: Business books


After the triumph of 'Getting to Yes', written with Roger Fisher and Danny Ertel, one of the most referenced and copied books on negotiation, William Ury has produced a solid sequel that adds significantly to the field.

A common problem when trying to negotiate collaboratively is that the other person doggedly sticks to competitive methods. This book offers details of how bring the other person back to the collaborative table, developing on the idea of the BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) proposed in the previous book. Ury proposes a five-step process, as follows:

1. Don't react

It is easy to become aroused when faced with a refusal to play the game, fighting back and thus descend into competitive negotiation. 'Go to the balcony', taking an objective and hence less emotional viewpoint. Understand what's going on underneath for all parties.

2. Disarm them

Rather than fighting, step to their side to listen and show that you care. By accepting the person and their right to their viewpoint, you encourage them to do likewise to you. Rather than accusing them, you can apologize for misunderstanding and ask them to work with you to find a way forward for all parties.

3. Change the game

Rather than rejecting them, the principle here is to reframe what they say, changing the meaning such that it seems that they are actually supporting a collaborative approach. Ask for their help. Reframe dodgy tactics. Talk about how the negotiation will be conducted.

4. Make it easy to say yes

Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese general said 'Build your enemies a golden bridge', such that this seems to be clearly the best route to take. Involve them. Help them save face. Subtly guide each step of the way.

5. Make it hard to say no

Only when the above steps are still not effective do you start to deploy your BATNA. The goal is to bring them to their senses, not to their knees. Ask them 'What if...' questions so they understand implications. Show them that you have and will use an alternative solution.


In this simple yet powerful process, Ury sets out a wide range of practical steps you can take to guide an aggressor towards becoming a willing collaborator. Since writing the book, Ury has spent much time in mediation and written yet another barnstormer in The Third Side, showing him as one of those rare authors who fires on all cylinders all of the time.

If you negotiate with people who want to fight back, and we all do, then buy this book!


Buy Me

William Ury, Getting Past No, Business Books, London, 1991

  Another great book that digs further into the ground started by Getting to Yes. Ury describes a straightforward and powerful method of turning competitive negotiators into collaborative ones. Especially worthwhile if you deal with difficult people, this is another clear and easy-to-read book that everyone should read.  See also the review of this book.



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