The Power of the Positive No

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Jean Reyt emphasizes that at some point in your life, you’ll have to make a stand. You’ll have to say “no.” If you don’t, people around you will suffer. If you’re someone who struggles to say no, you need to figure out why. Jean firmly believes there will come a day where you won’t say “no,” and you will regret it.

I love the book that William Ury wrote called “The Power of the Positive No.” He walks people through a three-step process of saying that you’re not saying no to the offer—you’re saying yes to your own interests. You have to reframe how you think about it. You may only be saying no to part of the offer.

Don’t know what to say? Doesn’t matter

So you must be specific about the things that you’re saying no to. You can reframe it to say, “I love this but let’s work on these pieces to nail down something that works for both of us.” Say yes to your interests and be specific about what you want to adjust to move the deal forward.

If you don’t know how to ask for what you want, just say something. You can just say, “I expected a higher salary,” and make your case. Jean sees how stressful it is for people to negotiate a job offer. They don’t often think about the fact that they’re a great candidate and that they have no reason to be stressed. He even points out that a potential employer may expect to negotiate with you. They may even be disappointed if you don’t. Why?

Compliance is not a desirable trait

Jean emphasizes that “Compliance is not a desirable trait in a human; it’s just a desirable trait in a farm animal.” Humans need to be collaborative and say when something isn’t working. He always tells his students that they need to be assertive about what they want. If they’re not, he won’t know what they want.

When people are confronted with authority, they think that the go-to response should be compliance or submissiveness. The reality is that your manager, professor, colleagues, etc., want you to be smart, make good decisions, and be an adult. If something is messed up, they expect that you’ll say something. If you don’t speak up, they’ll never know.

Follow your positive no with a persuasive argument

If you don’t follow your positive “no” with a persuasive argument, it becomes challenging. If my employees want me to pay for some education and it would be helpful to their role, I ask them to persuade me. If they do it well, I’ll probably pay for it. Your argument needs to be logical, contain an emotional component, and be backed by ethical credibility.

Jean points out that as a professor of negotiation, his students always ask if they can negotiate grades with him. Instead of saying that’s not how it works, he decided, why not? But it’s in their ballpark to convince him. If a student convinces him that they deserve a better grade on something, he’ll change the grade. If they fail to persuade him, nothing will change. Students tend to feel greedy for asking. But it isn’t greed; it’s asking for fair treatment.

If you’re negotiating your salary and you want your marketplace value to be matched, it’s not greed. You’re being realistic. But you need to know what your value is first. To learn more about preparing for a negotiation, why the word negotiation has negative connotations, and how to negotiate a job offer—listen to episode #252 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast!