The Power of a Positive No by William Ury [Book Summary – Review]

No is a strong word. It builds barriers, draws boundaries, and sets limits. Yet many people have difficulty using this word. Because saying no has certain costs. Can we refuse overtime if we want to be promoted? Or can you respond negatively to our partners without upsetting them?

Often accepting and responding positively rather than answering no causes indignation or trouble. Or when we say no, it becomes so harsh that it is perceived as aggression. Or we try to get out of this situation completely. With each approach, the situation becomes worse.

In these times of increasing disruption between home and work, being able to say no is more critical than ever. The following sections explain how to present a Positive No, which sets clear limits and keeps your time, values, and people you like safe without destroying your relationships.

In the following chapters, you’ll learn

  • how to take part in productive and courteous dialogue;
  • how to give an affirmative answer to yourself and protect the things that are most important to you; and
  • how to make the results that you want.

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Chapter 1 – You must understand the motivation behind saying no to unveil your yes underneath.

It may not be easy to say no, right? Of course, but it becomes even more hard when you are addicted to something like drugs or alcohol. Even though you know you should respond negatively, it may take you years to find the courage to quit that tempting drink.

After decades of alcohol addiction, it was only when he became a grandfather and wanted to be a positive force in his grandchild’s life that he finally stopped drinking. This shows a strong reality that Positive No is not based on being against something, but rather is encouraged by a more profound yes.

The main point here is this: You must understand the motivation behind saying no to unveil your yes underneath.

Many people tend to say no in a reactive way to compromise, to assault, or to avoid something; This is what the author calls the “triple A-trap.” Guilt, fear, or anger create these kinds of nos. However, for your response to break free of negativity, it needs to come from a more energetic, progressive, and determined source. Next time you are about to say no, wait a moment and ask yourself what you exactly want, what is the most substantial thing to you, and the reason for it.

While no is a clear statement of what you do not want, in the end, it is powered by what you do want. For example, your friend wanted to smoke in your living room after finishing work. You probably do not like smoking in your house because its smell is awful for you and it contaminates the air. This is the same for all situations where you want to say no. Thus, the next time you feel compelled to say this, ask yourself this question: What am I trying to build, preserve, or change? Contemplate your needs, values, and interests to determine what is truly important to you.

Once you do this, you reach your yes, the intention which forms the foundations of your interests. However, remember that a strong intention must not be negative; it should be in favor rather than against. Just like the alcohol addict who discovers that his real desire is to live in good health for his grandchild, you must find out what is truly important to you. Because discovering your yes gives you the courage to keep saying no. Now that this sense of purpose is realized, the next step is to strengthen your no.

Chapter 2 – Having a plan B is necessary for you to qualify your no.

Once you have achieved certainty about the resounding yes, you need to make a plan B that will support your intention. Because people do not like to be given no for a response, you will need something to support you if people resist you. 

Let’s give an example from the life of Rosa Parks. Her refusal to leave her seat is fueled by intention (the desire for dignity and equality) as well as strengthened by her activist side. Parks had made a plan B. Even though he knew she would most probably be arrested and the world would reject her, she was also aware that a mighty movement was standing behind her.

The main point here is this: You must understand the motivation behind saying no to unveil your yes underneath.

The advantage of having a plan B is that it allows you to say no with the assurance that if people resist you, you find something to compete with it. It also allows you to express your needs without giving the impression of being helpless. In the end, you already have a plan that tells you what to do, regardless of what the other people say.

Unluckily, it is not always nice to use plan B. If it was, it would be your plan A, right? For instance, when dialing with an exploitative boss, plan B might be to request a transfer or to inform HR about his actions. If you are trying to say no to a partner who is not communicating with you, a separation might have to be plan B. Even though it is not your first preference in, either case, your plan B guards you against deeds and treatments that menace your soundness.

Thus, how can plan B be made? Let brainstorming be the first step. Silence that fault-finding voice in your mind and consider all the silly possibilities. Then turn those silly ideas into plans that can be put into action by asking yourself how they will work.

While brainstorming, think about how you can attain your goals without involving anyone else in the process. Additionally, think about how you will feel coming out of this situation or whether there is a third party, for instance, a marriage counselor, who can make negotiations more straightforward.

Ultimately, know that your Plan B is neither a compromise nor a defeat. This is only a way to follow if the other person does not accept your no. And even if you choose not to use it, having a Plan B will strengthen your no. Once that kind of confidence arrives, you may not even need to attain it!

Chapter 3 – If you want other people to say yes to your no, the first thing you should do is behave with regard.

Now, that you have decided what your underlying yes is and made a plan B, the next thing you do is get the other person to accept your no. However, the issue is that many people take it personally when they are told no, and think they are denied, offended, and abased.

At this point, it would be beneficial to focus on the work the hostage negotiators are doing. Frankly, they cannot say yes to a hostage taker’s demand, but how do they say no and still keep the hostage safe? Dominick Misino, a hostage negotiator in the NYPD thinks that the first and foremost thing to do is to show respect.

The main point here is this: If you want other people to say yes to your no, the first thing you should do is behave with regard.

Respect is not that difficult, got it? Do to other people what you want done to you. Still, what if you have no genuine respect for that person? Fortunately, hearkening and acknowledging other people’s personalities as a human are the fundamental actions on the road to respect.

Although it may be more difficult to put this into action when it comes to people you do not particularly like, there is a difference between being respectful to someone and truly loving them. It is often the feeling of dislike that desensitizes us to a person’s humanity and thus to the situation as it currently exists. Do not ignore this. Because it calms your nerves and enables you to listen respectfully and better know what you are answering no to. 

After listening to the other person, try to understand him instead of opposing what he says. Try to examine his motives and reasons as you examine your own. When all he has said is over, ask him some questions that clarify the issue. Make certain nothing is misapprehended and try to treat him as if he is saying the right thing. Because your level of success in getting your no-answer accepted depends on how well you understand where that person is coming from.

For this reason, after listening to him, treat him with respect by acknowledging that you understand his perspective. If you do this, it will help you make sure that he/she won’t take your no as a personal rejection. You’ll find it easier to see something attractive in the other person if you think of a situation in which you were present. Treat him with respect by acknowledging the relationship and letting him know that you care about him.

Finally, it should be noted that keep in mind that the source of respect is strong and you can respect others as much as you respect yourself. Because William Ury says that respect is an expression of oneself and one’s values.

So, now that you have discovered your yes, strengthened your no, and considered the other person’s words respectfully, it is time to voice your Positive No.

Chapter 4 – If you want your no to be accomplished, you must say your yes openly and respectfully.

Which one is the better way of rejecting an invitation? Would you say that you are sorry and say no? Or would you say even if you are very grateful for being included and would like to attend, you cannot come that day because you are busy with another engagement? There is a preferred way to politely decline an invitation.

Strange as it may seem, saying yes must start your Positive No. This kind of yes is your acknowledgment of values. In other words, the value of the product you sell to another person or your value as a human. It also makes your underlying intent stronger and clarifies for the other person the reason why you say no. 

To make it easier to overcome the fear of disappointing another person, you need to confirm your intention from the very beginning. And frankly explaining why you’re saying no helps give a message that you’re not pushing that person aside, but rather you’re just trying not to give up.

The main point here is this: If you want your no to be accomplished, you must say your yes openly and respectfully.

When you say yes, keep in mind that you are not answering no to the person in front of you, but to the issue he/she raises. Therefore, be careful to avoid obvious judgmental expressions in your words and pay attention to artful ways for you to convey your thoughts with your gestures facial expressions, and the tone of your voice. If you do this, you merely activate her inner drive of self-defense and increase the likelihood that she refused to accept your no.

As Ury says, try using The instead of You in your sentences. Instead of telling a person that he messed up the business, was late, and got it wrong, try telling him that the business was ruined, the product was past-due, and the information was false. In this way, you concentrate on the issue without placing the whole responsibility on that person and focus on the real events surrounding you at that moment, not the personality.

Statements that contain “I” are potent as well because they particularly engage in what you feel, desire, and need. For this reason, it is extremely difficult to deny them. When combined with sentences containing The, they can be something like this: I feel terrible when I can’t finish the work on time because I want to get my work done.

Despite everything, do not give up your caution. Starting a sentence with I or Feel doesn’t give you the right to wander around calling them fools and fabricators. Yet you ought to particularly stay away from such kinds of judgments.

Ultimately, it should be noted that in some cases you do not need to explain. For example, suppose you are not drunk and you have refused to drink. A gentle “Thank you, but no” is sufficient as the reasons behind your reluctance are none of anyone else’s concern.

Chapter 5 – By saying your no, you draw a certain line and create a brand new reality.

When two people stand at an altar at a wedding and say they accept each other as spouses, their words are both an expression of emotion and an action. Through these words, they become a legally married couple, while the reality of their situation changes.

It agrees with your Positive No, because you’re not merely depicting what you feel or what you long for. Rather than this, you are drawing a line, saying what you plan to do, and executing it with confidence.

The main point here is this: By saying your no, you draw a certain line and create a brand new reality.

Children know incredibly well how strong an answer no is because this is their first taste of autonomy. When kids flare up, refuse to finish a plate of vegetables, or wear a coat that makes their skin uncomfortable, they are learning to draw their limits. And by acting like this, they confirm their existence.

This is why no is a word with such strong authority. Your personality is determined by what you say no to. However, if no is an expression of power, how can you say no without making people think that you are acting aggressively?

Acting naturally is the important point. Let your negative answer arise from your positive answer. Remember how kids effortlessly say no with the assertion that they are busy playing games? They are not afraid to offend someone because they trust their yes answer. Adults are more sensitive to the feelings and incentives of those around them. However, now that you have clarified your intentions, your natural no can come from the confidence you have gained.

There is no need to shout as your no is nourished by a powerful source. Even if your no isn’t offensive, saying thank you at the end of your sentence can help soften the blow to the other person. Another method is to base your negative answer on a personal principle, which, say, asserts that you never lend money to your friends. When you say it this way, your no is a sign that you are determined.

When you encounter unpleasant behavior, no is the most powerful word to say. The women’s self-defense group Impact Bay Area recommends using the word “No” rather than “Help” when screaming because it gets attention more efficiently.

Negative No is a tool to turn things down, Positive No is a trench that protects you. Never forget that you are not trying to hurt the other person, you are only looking out for your interests. In the sixth chapter below, we’ll tell you how to complete your no with a positive offer.

Chapter 6 – If you offer a convenient solution that addresses the needs of all, the chance of another person’s acceptance of your no will be higher.

Just because your Positive No has to be powerful, it should not terminate everything. You are both trying to explain what your needs are and trying to get into the other person’s mind so he/she agrees with you. Most of the time, the person you say no to is someone you care about or a friend from work, and you do not want to risk ruining your relationship.

Therefore, what can you do to make it more effortless for them to acknowledge your no?

The main point here is this: If you offer a convenient solution that addresses the needs of all, the chance of other people’s acceptance of your no will be higher.

By finishing one issue and opening another, you increase your power to say no, as if you are saying that it is necessary to move on to a more beneficial issue for both parties, even though in reality the issue is completely over. By offering another way, you are telling the other person that you are respectful of his needs and that you intend to make some effort to satisfy him.

Another benevolent consequence is that by proposing an alternative remedy, you give the other person the opportunity to say no. If no is a strong response, letting him state that he wants to help you will put you both on the same level.

A positive solution can normally be presented in one of three formats. If you are refusing something that someone has demanded, if you are rejecting that demand, the solution you have produced may be a valid alternative. If you disagree with someone’s actions, advise them to behave differently. If your Positive No is an autonomous statement in which you say no concerning consuming alcohol, being succinct is a call to reciprocal respect. You can also always state that you hope the other party understands you.

Ultimately, make sure that whether what you want is suitable or not. For instance, is it fair to ask someone to stop being so furious? A more useful alternative approach is to ask them to tell you why they are so pissed off. Never abandon behaving respectfully! Because no matter how reasonable your solution is, they may reject it because they are irritated by your behavior.

Keep in mind that the result doesn’t have to leave only one of you satisfied. There has to be an option that is advantageous for both people. So instead of paying attention to what cannot be done, look at what can be done. If you cannot come up with an alternative solution, at least you can talk about it together.

Now that you have conveyed all your yeses and nos, it is time to listen to the answer. In the last chapter, you will learn more about how to get the other person to accept.

Chapter 7 – If you want to make your no resilient, you must help others to shift their opposition into approval.

When President Lyndon Johnson’s speechwriter, Richard Goodwin, attempted to resign, LBJ used a master tactician’s techniques of bribery, adulation, and threats to refuse Goodwin’s no. Fortunately, most of the people you say no to are not as cunning as LBJ. Maybe if Goodwin had been strong enough to say No, he wouldn’t have had to destroy his resignation letter.

However, when you encounter a person who is not as persistent as LBJ, your blessings may crush their dreams or jeopardize their interests; Therefore, it should be known that resistance is inevitable. Begging, frowning, kickback, or even abruptly stop hearing. This shall be the occasion for you to continue your Positive No to its conclusion.

The main point here is this: If you want to make your no resilient, you must help others to shift their mood from opposition to approval.

Like when you experience disappointment in your life, it may take a while for the person to accept your no. For this reason, as she goes through the stages of that dreariness one by one, you need to go to that quiet place where you discover your true intention and be calm. Staying serene will help both of you calm down.

Perhaps ponder what the Chinese general Sun Tzu meant when he advised us to “build a golden bridge so that your opponent can retreat.” Does the person have difficulty accepting your charity because he is afraid of losing her dignity? Think about ways you can help her maintain his dignity and create an ideal connection to a solution where you can both exist together.

Because it will most likely be mandatory to exist with each other. Whether you’re facing a spouse, an ex, a client, or a co-worker, getting them to accept your no answer is only a temporary success. A well-expressed Positive No can help prevent protracted battles because it aims to make your relationship more authentic and genuine. Because Positive No embraces both your individual and social interests.

Although this issue is undoubtedly difficult to handle, you will understand it with practice. Start by becoming aware of how and when you say no. Do you adapt to the situation, become offensive, or run away? To whom is it most difficult for you to say no? If it’s hard for you to say no, ask a friend to rehearse with you.

Ultimately, keep in mind that Positive No is a present that will allow you to remain honest with yourself, and by expressing your truth others will be closer to you. For Positive No, you must be strong, brave, and empathetic. However, with practice, it creates more assertiveness and more genuine relationships.

The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes William Ury Review

It is up to you to take it or leave it, but answering no can start something instead of ending it. When a Positive No comes from you, you say it by affirming your sincere intent, standing precisely for yourself, and also being ready to welcome forthcoming prospects. Communicating with lucidity like this not only constructs your self-respect but also helps you build more powerful relationships.

Give a Positive No one time each day.

Keep in mind that Positive No is most directly yes! As the day goes on, find time to work on Positive No. Pay particular attention to the two yeses at the beginning and the end, and question yourself whether the preparation and follow-up process makes it more straightforward to give that strong, consistent no.

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Savaş Ateş

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