Master Negotiator William Ury — Strategies and Stories from Warren Buffett, Nelson Mandela, & More

Master Negotiator William Ury — Strategies and Stories from Warren Buffett, Nelson Mandela, & More

Preview (00:00:00)

Connecting with Roger Fisher. (00:01:15)

  • William Ury explains how he first connected with Roger Fisher at Harvard while pursuing a graduate degree in social anthropology.
  • Ury's interest in applying anthropology to practical issues, particularly the subject of war and peace, led him to seek out Fisher, who was working on peace negotiations at the law school.
  • Fisher was impressed by Ury's research paper on taking an anthropological view of the Middle East peace negotiation and invited him to work together on international peace negotiations.
  • Ury describes the phone call from Fisher as a life-changing moment that set him on the path of his career in negotiation.

Devising Seminars. (00:04:38)

  • Roger Fisher was teaching a devising seminar at the Harvard Faculty Club.
  • The devising seminar was held every few weeks and invited faculty from different disciplines and visiting diplomats.
  • The goal of the seminar was to come up with practical steps that could be taken to address global conflicts.
  • Roger Fisher's motivation for working on conflict resolution came from his experiences in World War II and his desire to find a better way to deal with differences.
  • William Ury shared a similar passion for finding creative solutions to conflicts, having witnessed the devastation of war in Europe.

Negotiating the Camp David Accords. (00:07:21)

  • William Ury, a negotiation expert, played a crucial role in devising seminars that led to significant interventions, including the Camp David peace summit between Egypt, Israel, and the US in 1978.
  • Ury and his colleagues introduced the innovative "One Text Process," which focused on understanding the underlying interests and concerns of the parties involved rather than demanding concessions.
  • The "One Text" was a non-binding proposal that aimed to reconcile Egypt's desire for sovereignty and Israel's need for security, with the idea of a demilitarized Sinai serving as the basis for the proposal.
  • This approach allowed for rapid prototyping and encouraged constructive criticism from both sides, facilitating the identification of common ground and the addressing of concerns.
  • Over 13 days, the US, Egypt, and Israel engaged in intense negotiations, resulting in 23 drafts of the Camp David peace treaty.
  • US President Carter presented the final draft to Egyptian President Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin, emphasizing that it represented the best possible agreement and that further improvements would come at the expense of one party.
  • This approach required Sadat and Begin to make a single decision rather than multiple concessions, and by clearly seeing the benefits they would receive in return, both leaders agreed to the treaty, leading to a lasting peace between Egypt and Israel for over 45 years.
  • The key takeaway from this negotiation strategy is the importance of creativity and innovation, focusing on the human aspects of negotiation rather than solely relying on technical considerations.

Writing the other side's victory speech. (00:13:34)

  • Writing the other side's victory speech is a useful exercise when facing a difficult conflict.
  • Imagine the other party has agreed to your proposal and write out how they would justify their decision to others.
  • Consider the hardest questions and criticisms they might face and think about the best answers they could give.
  • Your job as a negotiator is to help the other party deliver their victory speech.

Writing Kim Jong-un's victory speech. (00:16:47)

  • William Ury, a negotiation expert, analyzed the situation between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in 2017 when North Korea was testing nuclear missiles.
  • Ury and his colleagues envisioned a scenario where Trump and Kim Jong-un avoided war and opted for a meeting and agreement.
  • To understand Kim Jong-un's perspective, Ury contacted Dennis Rodman, a retired American basketball player with a personal connection to Kim Jong-un.
  • Rodman revealed that Kim Jong-un did not want war but desired engagement with the West.
  • Ury emphasized the importance of understanding the dreams and interests of the person you are trying to influence in negotiation.
  • Ury's work with Rodman led to the unexpected meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
  • Despite the absence of a formal agreement, the meeting significantly reduced the perceived risk of nuclear war, demonstrating the power of positive communication and the ability of each leader to emerge as a hero to their respective constituencies.

Pondering possibilities in the modern Middle East. (00:22:22)

  • William Ury believes there is no solution to the Middle East conflict, but there could be a beginning.
  • He suggests taking a step back and looking at the situation from a different perspective to see possibilities.
  • Instead of focusing on positions and demands, he proposes exploring the underlying interests, concerns, fears, and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.
  • Ury believes that if the question is reframed to "how can Israelis and Palestinians live together in dignity and security," then there may be lessons from other seemingly impossible conflicts that have been transformed.

Lessons from iconic possibilist Nelson Mandela. (00:25:44)

  • Nelson Mandela, a former boxer and reactive individual, transformed himself during his 27 years in prison.
  • He focused on self-mastery, meditation, and observing himself to control his natural reactivity.
  • Mandela studied the language, history, and traumas of his enemies to connect with them.
  • Upon his release, he met with the other side to build "Golden Bridges" and help them find a way out of the conflict.
  • Mandela mobilized the community, including blacks, whites, and others, as well as the worldwide community, to create a container for conflict transformation.
  • Mandela believed that seemingly impossible conflicts can be transformed through the collaboration of leaders and the community.
  • Mandela's example is not just about a magical leader but about the entire community engaging in a way that works.

Going to the balcony. (00:29:01)

  • Going to the balcony involves taking a detached observer role during negotiations to gain perspective and control emotions.
  • It is an innate human potential and not limited to those who read specific books.
  • Negotiation starts with influencing oneself before attempting to influence others.
  • Humans are often reactive, leading to regrettable actions and communication.
  • The ability to pause and reflect before responding is crucial in conflict situations.
  • Going to the balcony allows negotiators to keep their eyes on the prize, see the big picture, and find solutions.
  • It is a skill that requires practice and conscious effort to master.

Mitigating the risk of emotional spiraling with Hugo Chávez. (00:32:01)

  • Set joint rules, such as only one person can get angry at a time, to prevent an "arms race" of yelling and aggression.
  • Take frequent breaks to step away from the negotiation and clear your head.
  • Engage in activities that change your state, such as going for a walk or exercising, before or during a difficult negotiation.
  • Use physical techniques, such as pinching the palm of your hand, to stay alert and focused in tense situations.
  • Practice active listening and observation to understand the other party's perspective and motivations.
  • Refrain from reacting to emotional outbursts, as this can fuel the other party's anger.
  • Look for opportunities to de-escalate the situation, such as suggesting a break or truce.
  • Recognize that the power to not react and go to the balcony can be a powerful tool in negotiation.

The power of silence. (00:37:09)

  • Silence can be a powerful tool in negotiation.
  • In East Asia, silence is appreciated, while in Western cultures, it can make people nervous.
  • Pausing after making a request gives the other side time to think and can make your request more persuasive.
  • Studies have shown that negotiations with more silence tend to have more mutually collaborative and cooperative outcomes.
  • Silence allows people time to digest information and can strengthen the persuasiveness of an argument.

Respect and saving face. (00:40:53)

  • Use objective measures and data to support arguments in negotiations, making it easier to find a fair resolution that satisfies both parties' needs.
  • Avoid making negotiations a contest of wills and instead focus on collaboration.
  • Respect the other party's dignity by listening to them, understanding their perspective, and showing genuine interest in their concerns.
  • Learning basic formalities of the other party's language can demonstrate respect.
  • In negotiations with Hugo Chavez, William Ury suggested that Chavez's opponents could show respect by refraining from derogatory name-calling on TV.

Best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). (00:48:37)

  • BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) is a crucial concept in negotiation, representing the course of action one will take if an agreement cannot be reached.
  • Negotiation expert William Ury stresses the significance of understanding the underlying interests, particularly "freedom," in resolving conflicts.
  • Ury's "win-win-win" approach aims to find solutions that provide freedom and dignity for all parties involved, avoiding a win-lose mentality.
  • In a successful mediation, Ury helped resolve a conflict between Ailio and Amelio, who were vying for control of a retail company in Latin America, by identifying their shared interests and devising a mutually beneficial solution.

The trust menu. (01:01:41)

  • Trust is crucial in negotiation as it creates efficiency.
  • Warren Buffett and Charlie Murphy negotiated a $500 million deal over the phone in 30 seconds due to their trust in each other.
  • A trust menu is a pre-arranged set of signals or steps that each side can take to build trust when there is distrust.
  • The trust menu involves small actions that send signals of respect and trustworthiness.
  • Each side takes turns fulfilling items on the trust menu, gradually rebuilding trust and confidence.

The positive no. (01:05:52)

  • William Ury emphasizes the significance of effectively saying no, as demonstrated by Warren Buffett's investment strategy.
  • Buffett's success stems from his ability to decline numerous investment proposals until he finds one that aligns with his strategy.
  • Ury introduces the "positive no" approach, which involves starting with a "yes" to one's interest or strategy, followed by a calm "no" and concluding with another "yes" that offers a solution or alternative to address the other party's concerns.
  • This method softens the impact of the "no" and facilitates acceptance by demonstrating an understanding of the other party's perspective and a willingness to find a mutually beneficial solution.
  • When saying no, it's important to follow it with a positive note or a "yes" to end on a positive note.
  • Saying no sustainably is crucial when dealing with numerous incoming requests, as contingency commitments as a closing "yes" can accumulate and become overwhelming.

Closing on a positive note. (01:12:15)

  • Ensure that the 'no' is not taken personally.
  • Use strong affirmative statements to convey the 'no' is not personal.
  • Offer alternatives or future possibilities when saying 'no'.
  • Be cautious when leaving doors open for future commitments.
  • A pleasant and relationship-affirming tone can soften the impact of a 'no'.
  • Example: Guy Kawasaki's response - "really sorry I can't make this work like I'll raise a glass from the side lines with an exclamation point".
  • The 'yes' on the other side is an investment in the relationship and a sign of respect.

What prompted William to write Possible? (01:15:07)

  • William Ury, a renowned negotiation expert, presents key strategies for resolving conflicts and finding solutions in challenging times.
  • Ury's approach involves three main steps:
    • Gaining a broader perspective: Stepping back and viewing the situation from a higher vantage point allows for clearer thinking and decision-making.
    • Building a golden bridge: Listening, being creative, and understanding the other party's fears and desires can make it easier for them to agree to a proposal.
    • Considering the third side: Taking into account the surrounding community or people affected by the conflict can lead to more inclusive and sustainable solutions.
  • While the speaker may not consider themselves a master negotiator, they believe that everyone engages in negotiations in their daily lives.

Negotiating as a creative endeavor. (01:20:33)

  • Creativity is a core component of successful negotiation.
  • Seeing option C, beyond just A versus B, leads to mutual gain and better personal decisions.
  • To invent creative options, separate the cognitive process of inventing from evaluating.
  • Brainstorming involves generating ideas without criticism, then evaluating and improving them.
  • An example from a negotiation: removing numbers to avoid revealing who "won" in a conflict.

Sabbatical considerations. (01:24:04)

  • Creativity can be applied outside of negotiation, such as when considering a sabbatical.
  • To enhance creativity, go for walks or hikes in nature and seek out beautiful vistas.
  • Ask friends for their ideas and investigate various possibilities.
  • The essence of creativity is generating many options before narrowing them down.
  • Having multiple options allows for better decision-making by introducing criteria to find the most satisfying choice.

Exercise and self-care routines. (01:25:13)

  • William Ury, a 70-year-old anthropologist and negotiation expert, emphasizes the importance of non-negotiable self-care routines for maintaining physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
  • Ury recommends walking as a foundation for self-care, supplemented by light weights, yoga, and stretching.
  • He aims to walk daily, ideally first thing in the morning, and strives for a three-walk day, with each walk lasting between 1.5 to 3 hours.
  • Ury believes that walking promotes creativity and facilitates conflict resolution, as it allows people to talk differently and work through issues while facing a common direction.
  • He has a lifelong passion for creating walking trails, particularly in the Middle East, through his initiative called the Abraham Path, which aims to encourage people to walk and talk to resolve conflicts.

Uncovering interests, not just positions. (01:31:25)

  • Uncovering underlying interests is crucial in negotiations and life, as people's requests may differ significantly from their actual needs or wants.
  • A real estate developer's desire to buy land was motivated by the landowner's fear of being forgotten, which was resolved by erecting a statue in the shopping center.
  • A separatist group in Indonesia fought for independence for 25 years without clearly defining their strategic interests, but by exploring their interests, they realized they could achieve autonomy, control over resources, and cultural preservation without giving up their aspiration for independence.
  • Prolonged conflicts often lead to positions replacing interests, hindering progress.
  • William Ury, a renowned negotiation expert, shares strategies and stories from influential figures like Warren Buffett and Nelson Mandela, emphasizing the importance of looking beyond the surface of a conflict and identifying the underlying interests of the parties involved.

Hopes for the impact of Possible. (01:38:00)

  • William Ury hopes that his book "Possible" will inspire people to become "possessists" who believe in human potential and work together to solve the world's toughest problems.
  • He believes that humanity has the potential to make the world a better place, but conflicts are preventing us from realizing this potential.
  • He wants people to harness their full human potential for curiosity, creativity, and collaboration to transform conflicts and improve lives.

Overwhelmed by Endless Content?