‘No’ is a reaffirmation of autonomy

“No” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it. We’ve been conditioned to fear the word “No.” But it is a statement of perception far more often than of fact. It seldom means, “I have considered all the facts and made a rational choice.” Instead, “No” is often a decision, frequently temporary, to maintain the status quo. Change is scary, and “No” provides a little protection from that scariness.”

“So let’s undress “No.” It’s a reaffirmation of autonomy. It is not a use or abuse of power; it is not an act of rejection; it is not a manifestation of stubbornness; it is not the end of the negotiation.

In fact, “No” often opens the discussion up. The sooner you say “No,” the sooner you’re willing to see options and opportunities that you were blind to previously. Saying “No” often spurs people to action because they feel they’ve protected themselves and now see an opportunity slipping away.”

Today, I coach my students to learn to see “No” for what it is. Rather than harming them or those they negotiate with, “No” protects and benefits all parties in an exchange. “No” creates safety, security, and the feeling of control. It’s a requirement to implementable success. It’s a pause, a nudge, and a chance for the speaker to articulate what they do want.”

Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference

When beginning a difficult conversation with someone, it’s easy to take someone’s initial reaction as their final decision. This has been a useful reminder to me that reaching common ground is possible in more situations than I think.

This is a useful book. I will have more to say about it.