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No is more valuable than Yes

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Anthony Pica
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No is more valuable than Yes

Early in my career I was taught to get people to say Yes when trying to persuade them. It's what most people want to hear when negotiating.

In sales, for example, there's a persuasion technique called the "ladder-up method" where the salesperson first asks an inconsequential question unrelated to what they're selling. Throughout the conversation, they continue asking questions, aiming to elicit Yes after Yes until they're ready for the big ask. It might start with "your name is X, right?" and end with "so you'll be available tomorrow for a demo?"

This persuasion technique does work sometimes, but a No is more valuable when negotiating. Master negotiator Chris Voss says a well-intentioned No is worth five Yeses.

Trying to get to Yes too soon can put people on the defensive. They feel trapped by the questioning as if they're making a small commitment every time they answer Yes. They become reluctant to share more information and collaborate with you.

On the other hand, saying No is easy. The person doesn't feel like they're making a commitment. It feels safe. There's room for trust to build, and they'll be more likely to openly share information.

  • Examples of reframed questions:
  • Do you agree? > Do you disagree with this?
  • Is that a good idea? > Would it be ridiculous if we...?
  • "Do you have a few minutes?" > Is now a bad time?

It might seem counterintuitive, but the next time you're collaborating or negotiating with someone, try to get them to respond No instead of Yes. I've been trying and it works well—except at home. I've been trying to get my 16-month-old son to say Yes for weeks now, but all he seems to say is no no no like it's his favorite word.

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