The Power of No

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

using it.

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

your opponent?

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.

Your Turn…

When has no worked in your favor? What little no(s) do you use to

get to yes and ensure a successful negotiation?

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