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The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes Hardcover – February 27, 2007
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1. The other party exists.
2. The other party's interests exist.
3. The other party's power exists.
Negative emotions often lead to accommodating the other party (guilt), avoiding conflict altogether (fear) or attacking the opposition (guilt). Needless to say, these tactics do not foster respect and are the result of emotional short circuits run amok. One of the most important components of the solution is to recognise your own emotions and seeing them as events that are happening to you, rather than as something you are. "I am angry" is far less productive than "I feel anger." That is not to say that emotions are something that must be suppressed. That is often counterproductive and tends to result in emotional outbursts at a later date. Emotions can often signal problems or opportunities that can be uncovered and dealt with. Detaching oneself from feelings of intense anger, fear, guilt, anxiety or apprehension can be very effective when preparing for a negotiation. Calming oneself, going to the balcony and refusing to give in to one's own temper or indignation will often foster respect from the other party.
Three essential points must be uncovered before initiating any negotiation. What do you want to create that is of value to you? How will you protect it once you have it? What can you change that doesn't work? Ury uses the example of Southwest Airlines, a superlative leader in the US air transport industry. By selecting profit, reliable flights and fast turnover, it did away with reserved seats and meals on its flights. This proved to be a very successful strategy. Taking customers out to extravagant meals before delivering bad news can also help dampen the disappointment that is almost certain to result. Again, the key is to build, nurture and sustain healthy, productive and win-win relationships for all parties.
Ury's most insightful (and counter-intuitive) insight concerns how to help your adversary cross your golden bridge to agreement. It is a tactic that few will devise on their own. When dealing with the other side's representative, always keep in mind the fact that they are accountable to their constituents, and if they cannot convince them that their agreement was the right thing to do under the circumstances, they will likely be reticent and reject any deals you may offer. Helping them see the benefits for their constituents and helping them save face (or even gain respect) among their stakeholders will make agreement more likely (to say nothing of the benefits for both relationships).
In summary, begin with a firm, assertive Yes! Continue by asserting your interests and explain why you are not willing to accept unreasonable demands. Finish with a Yes?, and propose a reasonable solution that will lead to a win-win solution for all parties.
William Ury skillfully untangles this paradox by showing us how to dig deeper into our motivations. When we say no reactively out of anger, we damage our relationships. When we say yes reactively out of guilt or fear, we damage our own interests and values. We should instead be proactive in protecting our own interests and values, which will allow us to say no when necessary in such a way as to preserve our relationships at the same time.
The book is neatly divided into three parts or "stages" of three chapters each. Stage one is on preparing your no, and here he gives several helpful tools for introspecting and figuring out what you really want so you can act accordingly, which isn't always as easy or straightforward as it might sound. Stage two is on delivering your no, and includes a lot of examples of actual language you can use to make your refusal both more effective and less off-putting (because these don't have to be positively correlative!). Stage three is on follow-through and offers strategies for sticking to your own interests and values and making sure your no means no even when they don't want to take no for an answer (as anyone with children is all too familiar with).
The three chapters within each stage are because of what Ury calls the two biggest mistakes people make when saying no, the first being starting with no, and the second being ending with it. Perhaps counterintuitively, to say no effectively it helps to begin and end with yes. So the first chapter in each stage deals with the deeper yes in which you root your no, your own positive interests and values; the second with the no itself; and the third with the proposal of a hopefully more mutually agreeable alternative.
This structure may look a little too neat at first glance, but it's actually very practical and effective. And while this might sound simple and easy, it isn't. But this book will help make saying no simpler, easier, and most importantly more effective than it otherwise would be.
A note on the audio edition: I was pleasantly surprised when I realized at the end that the narrator was the author. Usually it's all too obvious when this is the case, but while listening I had assumed it was being read by a professional, and a good one at that. So Ury is not only among the better authors I've read lately, but also among the best narrators I've listened to. I've not yet read his earlier books Getting to Yes and Getting Past No (and he says he regards this book as a sort of prequel to those), but I'll definitely be picking them up.
The Ury approach is to first articulate your needs, i.e. your yes, and to be able to explain how your needs are not being met by the bad deal. The next step is to say no is a way that is emphatic and to stick to your no so as not to cave to the other side's pressure. Finally, you then make a counter-proposal, i.e. your "yes," so as to preserve and continue the relationship. This "yes, no, yes" approach may sound simple but it is not.
Ury's books have been referred to me by several law professor over the years as part of my legal training. I have found Ury's books eminently practical yet paradigm shifting. I heartily recommend the power of a Positive No as well as all the other Ury books on negotiation.