When it comes to negotiation, most people are tactical thinkers.
They spout phrases like, “Here’s my final offer.” Or they try using intimidation, the classic good cop/bad cop scenario, and other time-worn tactics to get what they want.
But tactics aren’t everything.
In fact, it’s more important to have an overarching strategy and approach when negotiating.
After 16 years of leading and participating in negotiations, I’ve compiled some of my favorite books on the topic. They run the gamut from the conceptual framework for negotiation, all the way to specific tactics that actually work.
To be a better negotiator, you really need to know both concepts: how to build a strategy and correctly deploy tactics.
1. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton
This is the classic book on negotiation found in most MBA programs. Getting to Yes introduced the concept of “win-win,” and it takes a complete and holistic approach to negotiations. It’s truly focused on being a cooperative negotiator, which is a valuable strategy to learn. But you won’t find anything in this book about the underlying competitive nature of negotiations.
2. Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People by G. Richard Shell
This is a strategy-oriented book that provides the reader with a good framework for negotiations. The model includes the information exchange, opening and making concessions, and closing and gaining a commitment.
Shell also provides a system for categorizing and digesting the bewildering mass of information that comes at you in the course of a complex negotiation.
3. Getting More: How to be a More Persuasive Person in Work and in Life by Stuart Diamond
This is a also a book on strategy, but the strategic model is embedded in 400+ case studies that cover a wide range of applications.
Hybrid Cooperative / Competitive Books
4. Manager as Negotiator by David A. Lax and James K. Sebenius
This book differs fundamentally from the recent spate of negotiation handbooks that tend to espouse either a competitive approach (Get yours and most of theirs, too) or a cooperative approach (Everyone can always win).
In this case, the hybrid approach is based on strategies and tactics for productively managing the tension between cooperation and competition that is inherent in bargaining.
It’s written from the perspective of a corporate manager who spends his entire day negotiating one thing or another — getting budgets approved, resolving disputes, shaping opinions, and working on more typical contract negotiations.
5. The Shadow Negotiation: How Women Can Master the Hidden Agendas That Determine Bargaining Success by Deborah Kolb and Judith Williams
The book is a hybrid of strategy and tactics, and focuses on the “shadow” negotiation — all the moves that happen before anyone meets at the negotiating table. While this book may be geared towards women, that doesn’t mean men should skip over it. The strategies it outlines are universally applicable to both sexes.
6. Legal Negotiation and Settlement by Gerald Williams
As you might imagine, this book is heavily focused on lawyers. But it does report on a very interesting study that identifies the personal traits that lead to success as a negotiator.
Using surveys of attorneys, tapes of prosecutors and defense attorneys, interviews, and video of simulated negotiations, the researchers compiled an intriguing set of data about what makes an effective negotiator.
They found that 65% of negotiators employ a cooperative approach, while just 24% use a competitive approach. Speaking to the strength of these two patterns, only 11% didn’t identify with one or the other identity. Either approach can be effective, but the research also showed that it takes more skill to be an effective competitive negotiator than it does to be a cooperative negotiator.
Williams also details the traits of ineffective cooperative and competitive negotiators, which makes the book useful for those looking to develop specific negotiating skills and improve weaknesses.
The title says it all. Voss isn’t a big fan of Getting to Yes because he believes it discounts real-world experience — mainly the competitive aspects of negotiation.
The book is tactic-oriented, but it uses modern and original tactics Voss learned during his time as a hostage negotiator. If you’ve just finished Getting to Yes, this may be a good counterpoint to help balance your thinking.
8. Give and Take by Chester Karrass
This book is a little older, from 1974, but it’s still a good source of information on a purely tactical approach to negotiation.
Karrass provides a laundry list of tactics for negotiation, as well as how to categorize them. While it’s still a useful book, it was written before much of modern negotiation research came to light, and it’s a good idea to keep that in mind while reading.
This is another tactic-focused book, but it has a strikingly counter-intuitive approach that’s very interesting. Instead of the “win-win” approach, Camp argues for an approach that will get you to “no” as quickly as possible.
Start wherever your interests lie, but be sure to dive into books that are based on both strategy and tactics if you want to get the most out of this reading list.