The Slow Power of ‘No’

You know you’re in trouble when your boss’ Monday morning question starts with “Can you do me a favor?”

How on earth can you say ‘no’ to that?

Actually, you can. In the greatest power of slow style, best-selling author of Start with No Jim Camp teaches us how. His intention may not be to save time as it is in my book, but saying ‘no’ can save you a lot of heartache, if you have the proper mind set.

Jim writes:

Most of us have been taught that if we want others to cooperate with us, we have to compromise — that is, to get something, we have to give something.  There’s a better way, however, to getting what you want: Start with no.  So, if your New Year’s resolutions for 2011 include being more assertive, standing up for yourself, and reaching your goals, the “No” system can be your ticket to success.”

So when I probed further, he revealed the top seven ways to use ‘no’ with little effort. Jim suggests the following:

1. Start with no. Resist the urge to compromise.  Instead, invite the other person to say “no” to your proposal.  (Hint: Don’t tell him or her what it is — at least not yet.)  And be clear that, personally, you don’t take no as rejection, but as a candid start to an honest discussion.

2. Dwell not. Dwell on what you want, and you blow your advantage.  Throughout the discussion, focus instead on what you can control — your actions and behaviors. [Editor’s note: this is the underyling principle in the power of slow as well. Choice underscores everything, including your relationship with time.]

3. Do your homework. Learn everything you can before you begin.  This way, you prevent a minefield of surprises, whether you’re dealing with the boss, a car dealer, or your own teenager. [Editor’s Note: If you find a great technique for dealing with teens, write to me. I’m struggling with that one right now!]

4.  Face problems head-on. Identify the “baggage” — both theirs and yours — and bring these issues out into the open.  Facing, not avoiding, problems gives you an edge. [Editor’s Note: I call that identifying expectations by laying it all out in the open.]

5. Check your emotions at the door. Exercise self-control, and let go of any expectations, fears, or judgments.  (And, whatever you do, don’t be needy.)  Sure, this is easier said than done, but it gives you an edge. [Editor’s note: As for expectations, we all have them. My suggestion is to acknowledge them from the beginning. That way they lose their power over you.]

6. Get them talking. Ask open-ended questions that begin with what and how.  Find out what the other person wants and needs, and then show him or her how your proposal actually benefits them. [Editor’s note: This is a great sales tool. Starting with ‘no’ means never asking a yes or no question!]

7.  Build a vision. Create a story that presents your proposal as their solution.  In helping the other person see exactly what he or she will gain from your plan, you spark decision-making and action.

Jim Camp is a leading negotiating coach and author of NO: The Only Negotiating Strategy You Need for Work and Home. President and CEO of Camp Negotiation Systems, he’s coached individuals, corporations, and governments worldwide through hundreds of successful negotiations. Contact him on the Web at

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