THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- BATNA thousand: Negotiate any time, any place, with anyone

During my first job interview, my mom drove me to 31-Flavors while we practiced interview questions. One question we omitted almost proved disastrous. "How much money are you expecting?" "Well, my parents are cutting off my allowance for the summer, so I'd like twenty dollars a week."

That would have been illegal, so the owner paid me minimum wage for a 40-hour week. I eventually quit for a job at a pizza parlor where I got extra money for cutting the salami with the machine that cut peoples' fingers. It wasn't until later in my career that I realized there are established strategies for salary negotiations, and if you follow them, you will likely get the salary you deserve without risking the loss of a limb. Or too many digits.

One of my bosses gave me the book Getting To Yes because, he said, it would help me manage because every management moment actually has implied negotiations. When I went to couples therapy with my husband, guess what the therapist assigned us to read. Getting to Yes.

It was a great idea. Because then instead of paying a therapist to entertain our insane ideas of changing each other. We learned how to make the other person feel happy about giving us what we want by making sure that they get something, too.

So I was excited when I had the opportunity to interview the author of Getting toYes, William Ury. He's director of the Global Negotiation Project at Harvard, and his new book is The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes. Here are his five best tips.

1. Take a break.

Ury calls this "going to the balcony" in order to get a big picture handle on what's going on so that you are not getting too worked up over irrelevant details. He says, "When we negotiate when we're angry, we give the best speech we'll ever regret."

2. Know your BATNA.

This is negotiator-speak for "best alternative to a negotiated agreement." That is, if you have to walk away, what's the best you can get? This tells you how much power you have in negotiations. The person who needs the agreement the least has the best BATNA and the most power.

3. Put yourself in the other person's shoes.

This means listening more than talking. And the first question to ask is Why. You will hear their needs, but you need to know the underlying cause for the need. For example, if your boss wants you to work a 16-hour day, find out why– what needs to get done in those hours. Maybe you can get it done a different way.

4. Learn to say no.

"In order to get to the right deal, you need to be able to say no to the wrong deal. Saying no is fundamental to the process of negotiation."

5. Be clear on your values.

For those of us who might not see a perfect yes, deciding on no is more complicated, and we have to be really clear in our own minds about what we value and what we need. Sometimes a no is surrounded by a deeper yes. For example. You say yes to the values, no to the tactics and yes to going forward. Ury calls this a positive no. But he warns that if you're in doubt, then the answer if probably no.


There are opportunities in each of our lives to practice negotiations constantly. You can do it with a spouse, with a boss, with your neighbor who doesn't clean the yard. The better you get at the small stuff, the easier the big moments of negotiation will feel.