Getting a “No”

We are constantly negotiating with people in our lives.  All day, every day, we are asking things of our friends, family, clients and coworkers.  We’ve been taught to try and get agreement, a “yes”, from all these interactions. We’ve been told to keep pushing and never give up until we have that “yes”.

In his book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended On It, Chris Voss proposes that it is actually easier to get a “no” instead. Chris knows a lot about negotiating, not as a marketing expert but as a lead hostage negotiator for the FBI.  He has now applied those same principles that he used in hostage negotiations to business.

One of the main principles in the book is that you will have more success getting a “no” and going after the “no” than you will trying for a “yes”.  This concept really rang true for me, I’d experienced it before in my own life.

People love to say “no”, it’s a power trip. On a subconscious, emotional, lizard brain level people get a thrill out of it. Any parent will tell you, toddlers love to feel that power and will say “no” all day (and night) long. In many ways, we never outgrow the need to use “no” as a way to feel powerful.

Most people also hate to disappoint others.  We naturally want to avoid burdening others, regardless of who they are.  If you combine both of these principles to change how you phrase your questions, then you’ll find that you’ll be more likely to get what you want in any situation.

For example, a friend had recently gone through a difficult divorce. He read Chris’ book and used these principles to change how he dealt with his ex-wife.  Being his ex, she probably wasn’t inclined to want to please him but she had no problem telling him “no” at any opportunity.  My friend learned to rephrase his questions to give her the ability to say “no”.  Instead of asking “Can I pick the kids up at 3:00?” he changed to “Would it be a problem if I picked the kids up at 3:00?”.  The rephrased question lets her still say “no” while also letting him get the kids at the time he wants.

I’ve experienced this too and I’ve found that phrasing your question in a way so that it can be answered “no” really does work.  Just the other day I used this with a client. I was running about 30 minutes ahead of schedule so I called to see if I could arrive early.  Instead of asking “Can I come early?”, I asked the client “Would it be a problem if I was early?”.  I don’t know if changing how I said it would have made a difference with this client but I think it did play into this principle.  He could easily say “no”, putting himself in a position of power, while still actually giving me the “yes” I was after.

For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode 440: Getting People to Say No

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