Don’t Be Afraid of the "NO" when resolving conflicts

This posting is about one of the simplest, yet profound lessons I have learned in the art of negotiation and communication. People are not mind readers. Although you might assume they know what you want, trust me, they do not. This means that typically you cannot rely on someone’s prescience to provide you with what you want. You’ll have to be assertive and… dare I say it…. ask for what you want. Whether it’s a certain price on something, a particular delivery date, or a concession in a contract you’re negotiating — it doesn’t matter. Most of the time you must take the initiative and make a specific request. Yet a lot of people — perhaps most — don’t ask for what they want. If you ask them why not, they’ll respond that they’re too shy, or they don’t want the other person to think they’re greedy, or they would be embarrassed to ask. Once in awhile you’ll find that rare individual who will tell you this truth, i.e., “What if he says no? What do I do then?”

And here’s the gravamen of the lesson: don’t be afraid of someone’s “No”. If you let your fear or apprehension of being told “No” outweigh the importance of your agenda, you’ll miss all the good stuff that’s available to you if only you have the guts to ask. So for example, when I am in a particular situation where I want something(s) and I find myself hesitating to ask, I query myself: what’s the worst thing that can happen if I ask? That he’ll say “no”? So what? Then take it one step beyond that.

Ignore the No – Focus on the Positive

If you want something — say, a discount on a volume purchase — and you ask for it and the other person says, “No,” don’t leave it at that. Ask, “Why not? Why can’t I have a discount — after all, I’m buying three dozen of these widgets here, not three.” What you may discover is that the other person’s “No” was not cast in bronze. You might determine that there’s a completely unrelated rationale for his “No.” Why is that important? It’s important because now you have the option to commence a dialogue with the other person, and such might actually result in your getting what you wanted in the first place. A discount. But if it doesn’t, at least you tried to get it, you took the initiative and asked for it, and if it’s that important to you, you (hopefully) have the option of walking away from the deal. Don’t be afraid of the “No”. Focus on the positive aspect of the “No”. Ask questions until the “No” morphs into something else or you are satisfied that you approached the discussion from every angle. This is how you gain experience in communication and negotiation.

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