You’re reading What They Said, a project by Chris Gallo.

William Ury


This is a conversation between William Ury and Simon Sinek. The two discuss Ury’s new book, Getting to Yes with Yourself, and other negotiation tips.

It’s a dense back-and-forth, so you might find yourself rewinding the video a bit like I did. Sinek adds a lot with his questions (listen to his TED talk if you haven’t before) and shares his own experiences too. Check out the excerpt below and the video here.

What stops us from getting to yes? 2:04

Over the years it began to sort of dawn on me, as I really started to look at the question of what stops us, what’s the real obstacle of us getting to yes or what we truly want in life.

I’ve found that the biggest obstacle of us getting what we want in life or getting to yes is not what we think it is. It’s not that difficult person. It’s not that difficult organization. They can be difficult for sure.

But the most difficult person is the person we look at in the mirror every morning. It’s right here. It’s us.

It’s in our own very human, very understandable tendency to react in ways that don’t serve our true interests.


The opposite of blame 3:48

The opposite of blame is taking responsibility.

Oddly enough, when we blame, we might think that’s powerful because you’re blaming the other person.

But you’re actually subtly disempowering yourself. Because you’re saying it’s the other person’s fault. I don’t have any stake in this.

But if you take responsibility, which doesn’t necessarily mean blaming yourself, it just means taking a constructive, positive approach towards it. You empower yourself and you’re more likely to get what you want.


What does taking responsibility mean? 7:07

Taking responsibility doesn’t mean blaming yourself. It means accepting that you’re part of it.

That it’s yours. You’re a co-creator of that situation. Even if, in your mind, you might be 1% of the problem, you’re still a co-creator of that.

And that gives you the power to change it. Because once you take responsibility, you can change.

Once you’re blaming, you can’t change. You’re just dependent on the other side. In fact, you’re their prisoner.


BATNA 7:38

In negotiation, the secret to power is often what we call your BATNA. You’re best alternative to a negotiated agreement.

In other words, before you go into a negotiation, what am I going to do to advance my interests, if for some reason I’m not able to reach an agreement.

If I can’t reach an agreement with this particular organization about a job, maybe I’ve got another job opportunity.

Or if I can’t reach an agreement with one customer, maybe I’ve got another customer. In other words, knowing you have that alternative, it gives you a sense of confidence and freedom.

The interesting thing is I’ve taught that for 30 years, people often don’t do it. Why don’t they do it? They’re just focused on the agreement.

They don’t think about their BATNA. I’ve come to realize, in fact, maybe there is a psychological antecedent. This all goes back to, again, yourself.

Which is an inner-BATNA. The commitment to yourself that you’re going to take care of your own needs. Which then makes you less psychologically dependent on the other side.

And then oddly enough, like if you’re in a relationship, if you’re less dependent psychologically or emotionally on your partner, you’re likely to have a better relationship.

Because you care. But you don’t care that much that you’re going to get highly triggered every time you get together.


Is the universe unfriendly or friendly? 10:30

Einstein once said, “The most important decision that every human being has to make is to decide whether or not the universe is friendly.”

Why did Einstein say that?

We can choose. If you choose that it’s friendly, you’re likely to interact with people as if they’re possible partners in a cooperative way.

If you think it’s unfriendly, and you see everyone as your adversary, and the whole world as hostile, then you’re going to behave that way and everyone is going to be very hostile.

He though the future of the human race depended on us answering that question.


Go to the balcony 15:39

It’s the ability to start to invoke your inner scientist and observe what is going on. It’s almost like you see what is going on in the negotiation on a stage, and part of your mind goes to a mental and emotional balcony overlooking that stage.

Where you can keep your eyes on the prize. You can see what’s going on. A little bit of detachment to observe.

So you can then ask yourself the question, “What’s my why here? What do I really want out of the situation? What’s my intention?”

Before I’m about to go into a difficult negotiation or even a phone call, I like to take a moment or a few minutes of just quiet.

Listen to yourself. Watch yourself. Go to the balcony. Set your intention.

And that helps. If you get caught or carried away with the thing, take a break. Take a time out. And realize it doesn’t all have to be done at once.

Have a moment after the interaction to ask yourself, “What did I learn here? What would I do differently next time?”


Slow or Fast 17:40

The motto in negotiation is if you want to go fast, you have to go slow. Because human minds don’t change in a second.

If you can slow down to where that human mind is, then you have a chance to bring them much faster.

If you go really fast, there is a resistance and they shut down, and then it’s going to take a lot longer.


It starts with you 31:10

Self-acceptance. Maybe the greatest gift you can give yourself.

We all have this voice. This inner critic. That is criticizing and doubting.

Psychologists says we have almost 60,000 thoughts a day or maybe up to that. And the great majority of them are negative. If you actually sat down and counted all the negative thoughts.

The ability to accept yourself. If you can accept yourself, you can accept others. If you respect yourself, you can respect others.


Best kind of leaders 37:35

It goes back to the leaders. It’s not the charismatic leader that is necessarily the best one.

It’s the one that is willing to be accountable. The one that does the hard work. They’re not so flashy. They have humility.

They’re able to learn. And that opens them up. It’s infectious to the rest of the organization.

Right on, Mr. Ury.