Graduate Blog / Graduate Life

Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” – Abraham Lincoln: William Ury at Babson College

William Ury is the author of Getting to Yes (the world´s bestselling book on negotiation), Getting past No, and many others. He is a negotiations expert, advisor, mediator and co-founder of Harvard´s Program on Negotiation.

William Ury

During his visit to Babson College, Bill stated that he sees a revolution in the way we make decisions. Before there was a focus on hierarchy, and now decisions are made horizontally, by taking into account the shared vision of more people.

Bill gave us some tools and insights that can help us become better negotiators in this new context:

  1. Listening

This is a very simple concept, however difficult to apply. When we listen we can understand, connect and thus get to yes. When Bill says we need to listen more, he means we need to listen within the other´s frame of reference. We often think we are listening but we are not. We understand what the other is saying according to what we think is right or wrong, according to what we want, what we fear and according to our previous experiences.

William Ury proposes that we listen to what the other person has to say (and what is not being said!) by understanding what he is feeling, what he fears and what he wants.

That being said, the first and most important negotiation is with ourselves. We are our worst and best allies (I also had a chance to learn this while growing up playing tennis). For this reason, before negotiating with another person we need to understand what is really important to us, what we want to achieve, when we can make concessions and when we cannot.

  1. Go to the balcony

One tool we can use to get a better understanding (especially during a heated negotiation) is to go to what Bill calls “the balcony”, a place of perspective, calm and self- control.  Be creative with the different options we have, let go of positions and understand what “winning” would really mean for us.

  1. Reframe

As a human, this is one of our greatest powers. We have the power to change the game and this starts by changing our mindset and thinking there might actually be enough for everybody.

Bill asked the audience to arm wrestle with the person sitting next to them. I had a (guy) friend next to me so I had to power up because I wasn´t going to let him win! We barely moved away from the center. This happened to most of the room since no one got to win. This is often the case.

However, if the point of arm wrestling is getting more points – let´s say you get 1,000 points every time you touch the table – then we both could soften our arms and move fast to touch each side of the table as many times as possible, and get thousands of points while people stay in the middle wrestling. Wouldn´t that make more sense?