Updated: May 18, 2018
How to Use It to Your Advantage:
No. These two little letters carry a lot of clout. “No (teenage son), you
can’t have the keys to the car, tonight.” “No (employee), you aren’t
getting the promotion.” For a word with such a negative connotation,
it represents an alluring attribute: a sense of control for the person
Who likes to be told no? Not the three-year-old with his hand in the
cookie jar, the 13-year-old who wants to stay up late or the 30-year-
old asking the boss for a raise. For the person exercising their right to
say no, it means, “you can’t make me do anything I don’t want to do”.
It’s a visceral reaction. For as many people who avoid hearing it,
there are just as many who use it to control.
It seems counterintuitive. But getting a no upfront is actually the most
effective way to negotiate. It’s critical to the discovery process.
Without discovery, how can you possibly know what’s at stake for
Inviting a no is actually more honest and transparent too. Think back
to our previous blog and the yes strategies. They either require
underhandedness or cynicism, depending upon which end you’re on.
Using No to Put Others at Ease:
So you’re willing to prompt a no from your opponent. But you wonder,
“What kind of no do I actually want and how do I successfully
negotiation from there?”
Your objective in getting a no is to put the other person at ease. Think
about it. Wouldn’t you rather negotiate with someone who is open
and relaxed versus one that is tense and closed off?
Small yeses leading to a big yes are rarely effective. However, the
opposite is true for a no.
Understanding your counterpart’s no(s) is critical to the discovery
process during negotiations. No can mean several things: “No, not
now.” “No, not you.” “No, not ever.” or “No, not those specific terms.”
Allowing your opponent to say no removes the pressure, enabling
them to get comfortable and eventually return to the original
objective. It can be achieved by understanding the other person’s
long-term goals and how they envision their ideal outcome.
Here are an example of a little no that leads to a yes:
“Would it be convenient to talk right now?”
“Are you happy with our progress?”
“If this approach isn’t working for you, let me know and we can go in a
different direction. Sound fair?”
The last sentence invariably results in agreement. It’s an effective
direction to lead the negotiations, despite a no or two along way.
What’s more, they actually allow you to understand or discover what
your counterpart is really after. A no also invites them to circle back to
the original idea because they no longer feel pressured to make a
decision. Consequently, they can explore an idea’s merits rather than
look for a way to reject it if it isn’t agreeable to them.
When has no worked in your favor? What little no(s) do you use to
get to yes and ensure a successful negotiation?