Getting to Yes is a book on negotiating based on the Harvard Negotiation Project. The book can be very helpful in teaching us how to communicate with someone through difficult issues.


The book is a treasure trove of helpful methods: separate the people from the problem, look for mutual interests instead of focusing on opposing positions, insist on objective criteria of measurement, etc.


One of my favorite suggestions from the book is to be soft on the people and hard on the problem.


It is important when we discuss the issues of the day to have the kind of relationship where we can separate criticisms of ideas and actions from the people who hold those ideas or perform those actions.


Every human idea is true in some ways and false in others. Every political system under the sun is good in some ways and bad in others. Criticizing a belief or practice does not mean they are always wrong, it means to analyse how they are good and how they are bad.


We need tenderness for people and toughness for testing our ideas and practices. Usually, we do it the other way around. I’m sure when outsiders began to criticize the Nazi’s, some Germans got defensive. They would think of the nice and patriotic Nazi’s they knew and treat any criticism as an attack on their friends. But the real question for them and for us should be what do our ideas and actions mean for the world at large.


We all need to calibrate our favorite ideas and practices to the good of all. One helpful skill in doing that is to be soft on the people and hard on the problem.