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The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World

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A member of the world renowned Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School introduces the powerful next-generation approach to negotiation.

For many years, two approaches to negotiation have prevailed: the ‘win-win’ method exemplified in Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton; and the hard-bargaining style of Herb Cohen’s You Can Negotiate Anything. Now award-winning Harvard Business School Professor Michael Wheeler provides a dynamic alternative to one-size-fits-all strategies that don’t match real world realities.

The Art of Negotiation shows how master negotiators thrive in the face of chaos and uncertainty. They don’t trap themselves with rigid plans. Instead they understand negotiation as a process of exploration that demands on-going learning, adapting, and influencing. Their agility enables them to reach agreement when others would be stalemated.

Michael Wheeler illuminates the improvisational nature of negotiation, drawing on his own research and his work with Program on Negotiation colleagues. He explains how the best practices of diplomats such as George Mitchell, deal-maker Bruce Wasserstein, and Hollywood producer Gerry Weintraub apply to everyday transactions like selling a house, buying a car, or landing a new contract. Wheeler also draws lessons on agility and creativity from fields like jazz, sports, theater, and even military science.

The Art of Negotiation includes preparation tools for setting stretch goals in negotiation, as well establishing when walking away from a deal is better than saying yes. The book also lays out nine principles for crafting resilient strategy, and techniques for maintaining emotional poise in tense situations. Effective negotiators are both calm and alert, patient and proactive.

Wheeler provides a comprehensive view of negotiation, from openings to closings, including critical moments along the way. For experienced practitioners, The Art of Negotiation provides a new and powerful way to analyze and manage the process. For students and others new to negotiation, it offers a clear path for building success and confidence in this all-important arena.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published August 1, 2013

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About the author

Michael A. Wheeler

10 books7 followers
MICHAEL WHEELER is an author, professor, and mediator whose work is at the forefront of negotiation scholarship and practice. He is a professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School where he teaches negotiation as well as a variety of executive courses. He advises corporate clients, trade organizations, and government agencies on negotiation issues in the United States and abroad.

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5 stars
148 (31%)
4 stars
164 (34%)
3 stars
129 (27%)
2 stars
24 (5%)
1 star
8 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Profile Image for Meredith, troll to a criminal degree.
760 reviews436 followers
December 4, 2021

I found this book helpful. I was going to take notes and provide an outline in this review -- but this is the kind of book where it's most helpful if you're in the process of negotiating and can apply the concepts. The info is theoretical, but easily applied to the situation I'm dealing with. Like other reviewers have mentioned, I particularly appreciated this wasn't a "hardball" guide or "win-win" guide. I found the author's viewpoint on negotiations very practical and reasonable.

Profile Image for Dale.
66 reviews5 followers
March 31, 2014
The Art of Negotiation is a really good book, taking a different track than typical books on negotiation: rather than becoming hung up by the details of the tactics of individual negotiations, it talks about the overall strategy of negotiating, recognizing that while each negotiation is unique, there are similarities in between them.

This book also goes heavily into personal development, stressing the necessity of balancing opposing emotions, and entering a state of flow to allow you to improvise in very tough situations.

A must read for anybody who negotiates on a regular basis.
Profile Image for Caroline Chua.
29 reviews5 followers
April 11, 2021
Don't expect cookie-cutter advises about negotiation. However, too many anecdotes and elaboration are distracting. I simply scanned and skimmed some pages to get the gist. I prefer self enrichment books to be straightforward with their points: present them succinctly, bolster them with anecdotes, and facilitate elaboration with few diagrams. Overall interesting, applicable in business, job interview or decision making in general.
Profile Image for Audille Bardon.
65 reviews2 followers
September 19, 2019
Great book that taught me more about negotiation but it is a difficult book to read when you are not a native English speaker. I discovered tons of words that I have never heard of after five years living in an English speaking country. The ton is very formal.
Profile Image for Shaun.
637 reviews8 followers
May 10, 2014
This was a solid book regarding negotiation. I learned some good tactics to improve my skills in this area. Not my favorite book about this topic, but it was decent.
Profile Image for Matheus.
14 reviews
January 5, 2021
This is a fairly useful book for those who have never wondered about negotiation before.
The theoretical part of the book is good, for it disclosures a comprehensive e friendly approach of negotiation, without moving to a romantic view of cooperation between the parts.
There are a whole lot of examples and cases. They are helpful sometimes for a deeper comprehension of the theory but, most of time, they were tiresome for me, and the book could have been eighty pages shorter or so, without losing nothing of its richness. Thus, taking in account this prolixity with examples, I deprive this book of one star.
58 reviews
May 9, 2019
Wonderfully written and plenty of examples given. The ample amounts of examples were varied and relatable. The information was so natural seeming that I felt this knowledge was second nature. Wheeler references other scientists and books that give his material plenty of extra credibility. This is how I know it's good information, if it makes sense and can be adapted into life naturally and if there's other authors that you can draw from.

I would recommend this book for anybody who needs to do serious negotiating. I would even own this book.
Profile Image for Shalynn Simatovich.
63 reviews2 followers
August 14, 2019
This book has good points, but isn't exactly practical. Many of the chapters feature sections on how to apply the concepts but are always accompanied by some sort of disclaimer about how difficult it can be to understand the best course of action in the moment. I do like the balanced approach taken in the book. It isn't another "my way or the highway" or "both sides always benefit" negotiation book.
Profile Image for Pablo Reyes.
48 reviews2 followers
June 14, 2020
Professor Michael A. Wheeler teaches negotiation at Harvard Business School. He is probably one of the best negotiation scholars in the world.
In this book you will find Harvard's core lessons on negotiation.
I graduated from the Mastery Negotiation executive program last year.
Most of what is taught in that program can be found in this book, even with longer and more profound explanation.
This book is a must if you want to learn or enhance your negotiation abilities.
Profile Image for Anath Lee Wales.
Author 12 books14 followers
March 4, 2022
I really liked it and recommend it to everyone at all levels.
Prior to reading many books and due to my many other personal responsibilities,
I couldn't get enough time to really write a personalized review,
but this is really a good book you have to read.
Profile Image for Felipe CZ.
514 reviews33 followers
May 22, 2020
Prepare a plan beforehand but be flexible, considering various scenarios, treating others like you want to be treated.
Profile Image for Priya Ravinder.
58 reviews2 followers
July 9, 2021
The book is fairly simple to understand and can be considered a beginners guide into negotiation practices in day to day life. For more advanced practices, more advanced content may be required.
Profile Image for Wendy Yu.
34 reviews11 followers
December 30, 2016
P31: You'd be in a weak position unless you lined up a fallback in advance. The point of the premortem exercise isn't to identify each and every possible way a deal might go wrong. // Rather, it's to foster an attitude of watchfulness, so you'll be quicker to see that the process is going awry. If you're alert, you may be able to get back on track. If not, you'll have a plan B.

P133: Negotiation vegabonds pinball their way through the process. // They overreact to whatever they saw or heard most recently. // Successful negotiators are flexible but not erratic. They start with a clear hypothesis about how to approach a case but then test it.

P144: Paradoxically, seeing something as a negotiation can make it harder to reach agreement.

P172: Bill Ury observes that when you say no to others, you're really affirming something that's important to you. // Bill recommends what he calls a yes-no-yes.

P218: Negotiations likewise has similar ebbs and flows. Proposals ignored or rejected early on can be revisited, revised and integrated later, when the parties realize that they are stuck.

P229: Beware of mislearning. Admitting that you don't know is better than operating from an erroneous conclusion.

P240: Before closing discussion of the case, I come back to the people who'd inform the owner that the property is underpriced // If the buyer wouldn't be able to use the property all the time, for instance, maybe she could rent it to the owner's family at a bargain rate // informing the seller seems like the most promising avenue for expanding the deal space.

P248: If they can't give you a yes or no, the most you should give them is a maybe.
Profile Image for Jessica Salyers.
24 reviews
March 6, 2014
The Art of Negotiation strongly focuses on preparation; yet, it does so in a different way. This book explains that no matter how much you prepare, it is generally never enough, and thing can still go in a direction you never saw coming. Wheeler discusses how the process of preparation, preparing for the best outcome and the worst outcome, helps you to think on your feet when the time for actual negotiation arrives. I thoroughly enjoyed his comparison the thinking process of preparing for a negotiation to playing chess. While I am not an avid chess player, or even a good chess player, his analogy gave a clear description of the way you should view the negotiation table. By understanding that there are many outcomes, and the relationship of the pieces, I can now see the importance over the whole process instead of just focusing on the end game. Any one wrong move can disrupt the entire outcome; yet, if you think/plan accordingly, your odds of coming to an agreement has greatly improved.
Profile Image for Scott Wozniak.
Author 13 books73 followers
November 30, 2013
This book offers principles about negotiation and goes on to offer practical examples of how they are used. You get the best ideas from the most well known negotiation books, but with the brilliant twist of how these principles change in the ebb and flow of live negotiation.

From jazz to warfare, other fields are compared and learned from. Easy to read and full of specific ideas and stories, I highly recommend it. And if you think it's only for those who are "professional" negotiators, then you may need to rethink how often you negotiate in your personal and professional life.

I'm not a professional negotiator and I loved it and plan to do thing differently after reading it.
Profile Image for Arion Williams.
90 reviews
January 16, 2014
Definitely, a book that needs to be in your reference library. there is a social question that must be answered when negotiating anything. I'm glad this was pointed out because if your moral compass is off, your view towards a negotiation will be as well. Great examples with provoking questions and strategy to get results. It's not a how to book, but a "how to think" book.

Strongly suggest buying this book.
Profile Image for Ernst.
33 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2015
I had this book as unabridged audio version accompanying me on my commute, and I thought it was great. It tries to identify the success factors behind negotiating in general, without confining this to business and money and using a variety of very interesting case studies.

It makes a lot of sense to me, and has given me a lot think about on how I interact with people I want or need something from or with people who come wanting something from me. So I warmly recommend it.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
1,289 reviews49 followers
Shelved as 'read-in-manuscript-form'
June 24, 2013
There were times, proofreading this, when I caught myself thinking, "Have I actually been paying attention to proofreading this, or have I gotten caught up in enjoying reading it?" which I think is a good sign.
Profile Image for Daniel Simmons.
811 reviews40 followers
June 26, 2014
Very readable and entertaining, with great anecdotes to illustrate how people other than you have been very clever at negotiating, but I'm not sure I learned anything profound about how to make these techniques work for me in my own life and work. Still, it makes for a useful starting point.
August 10, 2014
There are some useful techniques and approaches in this book. It is correctly emphasises the unpredictability of the negotiation process.
Downside for me is that it lacks systematic approach, in comparison to "Getting to Yes" or similar ones
Profile Image for Jeff Dern.
2 reviews1 follower
March 23, 2014
Great and practical book. There are some lists regarding levels of acceptance and tactics I found helpful and the use of anecdotes was particularly useful.
474 reviews47 followers
January 4, 2015
Good book on negotiation. I thought the author had done good practical advice.
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews

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