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Roger Fisher, 90, prof co-wrote best-selling book on art of negotiating

Updated: September 29, 2012 6:17AM

HANOVER, N.H. — Roger Fisher, a Harvard Law School professor and co-author of a best-selling book in the 1980s on how to negotiate titled Getting to Yes, has died. He was 90.

Mr. Fisher died Saturday at a retirement community in Hanover, according to Dartmouth College, where his son is a doctor and professor in the medical school.

Along with William Ury and Bruce Patton, he wrote Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In, in 1981. Since then, the book has been translated into 23 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide.

Mr. Fisher was the founder and director emeritus of the Harvard Negotiation Project. He was an innovator in the theory, teaching and practice of negotiation and conflict resolution. Sometimes invited — and sometimes at his own initiative — Mr. Fisher advised government and military officials, rebels and independence movements, labor unions and corporations around the world on how to resolve their differences.

Mr. Fisher taught that “peace is not a piece of paper, but a way of dealing with conflict when it arises” and that the process used to negotiate affects the likely outcome. He urged parties in a dispute to focus on each other’s underlying interests, rather than their bargaining positions.

Mr. Fisher believed that inventing concrete “yesable propositions” to which both sides might realistically agree significantly improves the likelihood of reaching agreements.

Mr. Fisher, who graduated from Harvard College in 1943, volunteered for the Army Air Corps and served as a weather reconnaissance officer in both the North Atlantic and the Pacific during World War II. His experiences and the loss of friends inspired him to look for better ways for nations to resolve their differences. Among his accomplishments, he served on Ambassador Averell Harriman’s Marshall Plan staff in Paris. AP

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