How to Say No and Still Get to Yes
Article below on Harvard Site:
by William Ury
This challenge is vividly captured in an old Japanese story about a samurai and a fisherman. One day, the samurai went to collect a debt from the fisherman. “I’m sorry,” the fisherman said, “but this last year has been a very bad one for me, and I regret to say I do not have the money to repay you.” Quick to anger, the samurai drew his sword and prepared to kill the fisherman on the spot. Thinking fast, the fisherman boldly said, “I have been studying martial arts and my master teaches that you should never strike out of anger.”
The samurai looked at him for a minute, then slowly lowered his sword. “Your master is wise,” he said quietly. “My master used to teach the same lesson. Sometimes my anger gets the better of me. I will give you one more year to repay your debt, but if you fail by even a penny, I will surely kill you.”
The samurai returned to his house, arriving late at night. He crept in quietly, not wishing to wake his wife, but to his shock, he found two people in the bed, his wife and a stranger dressed in samurai clothing. With a surge of jealousy and anger, he raised his sword to slay them both, but suddenly the fisherman’s words came back to him: “Do not strike out of anger.” The samurai stopped for a moment, took a deep breath, and then deliberately made a loud noise. His wife instantly woke up, as did the “stranger,” who turned out to be his mother.
“What is the meaning of this?” he yelled. “I almost killed you both!”
“We were afraid of robbers,” his wife explained. “So I dressed your mother up in your samurai clothes to scare them off.”
A year passed and the fisherman came to see the samurai. “I had an excellent year, so here is your money back and with interest,” the fisherman said happily to him.
“Keep your money,” replied the samurai. “You repaid your debt long ago.”
When you want to say No, remember the samurai’s lesson: do not react out of anger — or indeed out of any negative emotion such as fear or guilt. Take a deep breath and focus on your purpose — your Yes — in this situation. Ask yourself what you really want and what is really important here. In other words, shift from being reactive focused on No, to being proactive focused on Yes.
No is perhaps the most important and certainly the most powerful word in the language. Every day we find ourselves in situations where we need to say No — to people at work, at home, and in our communities — because No is the word we must use to protect ourselves and to stand up for everything and everyone that matters to us.
But as we all know, the wrong No can also destroy what we most value by alienating and angering people. That's why saying No the right way is crucial. The secret to saying No without destroying relationships lies in the art of the Positive No, a proven technique that anyone can learn.
This indispensable book gives you a simple three-step method for saying a Positive No. It will show you how to assert and defend your key interests; how to make your No firm and strong; how to resist the other side's aggression and manipulation; and how to do all this while still getting to Yes. In the end, the Positive No will help you get not just to any Yes but to the right Yes, the one that truly serves your interests.
The Power of a Positive No offers concrete advice and practical examples for saying No in virtually any situation. Whether you need to say No to your customer or your coworker, your employee or your CEO, your child or your spouse, you will find in this book the secret to saying No clearly, respectfully, and effectively.
A world-renowned negotiator, mediator and bestselling author, William Ury is a co-founder of the Program on Negotiation and the director of the Global Negotiation Project.
Purchase the book now at the PON Clearinghouse.