When to Say "Yes"
Est. time: 15 min.
- Choosing how to express agreement
- Avoiding saying yes in a negative way
- Eliciting the kind of yes you want to hear
Successful negotiations come to close when one party makes a proposal and their counterpart says yes. Sometimes, though rarely, that proposal may be the first and only offer that is ever made. In other cases, many offers and counteroffers may volley back and forth before a proposal is made that is mutually acceptable.
Before continuing with this module, please complete the following activity.
Comparing Two Ways of Saying Yes
In this module you’ll get to analyze different ways to say yes to an offer. Pay close attention not just to what the negotiator says, but how he says it.
Now let’s see the same negotiator say yes, but this time very differently. There will be another short quiz right after; as before there is no right answer. Just be aware of your first impression of what’s likely behind his statement.
Here are a few thoughts on the first two versions of yes that we’ve heard:
Comparing Two More Ways of (Sort of) Saying Yes
We’ve seen two different kinds of yeses—one that was enthusiastic, another somewhat more grudging (though it included a thank you) There are also yeses that aren’t necessarily meant to end the negotiating. Let’s see an example:
Now here's a very different way of attaching a condition:
Our focus in this module has been on different ways of saying yes to an offer. Naturally we are also concerned with coaxing others to say yes to what we propose. Two other modules in this unit deal with that topic, namely, Persuasion and Overcoming Obstacles.
We will close here with a specific technique, one proposed in the classic text, Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. It is justifiably famous for highlighting the importance of interest-based problem-solving for reaching “yes-able” agreements—outcomes that all the parties see as preferable to stalemate.
To get to that point, the authors recommended using what they called the Currently Perceived Choice tool. It’s a way to catalog and compare the factors a counterpart weighs when considering whether to accept or reject a proposal.
It involves sketching a balance scale that weighs the balance of the consequences—in your counterpart’s eyes—of saying yes or no. If they currently tilt towards no, your task is to increase the perceived advantage of saying yes, while reducing whatever benefit there may be for them to say no, or to do a combination of both. In other words, you want them to see the reasons for yes to you as greater than the arguments for saying no.
That can mean improving the substance of your offer, but often just as important, it can involve getting them to reassess your original proposal so that they recognize it’s worth more than they initially thought. That’s where the persuasion comes in. And it also applies in convincing them that their walkaway is not as attractive as they may imagine. All this entails trying to see the situation as your counterpart sees it and working to reshape their perceptions.
I would add another element to the Getting to Yes analysis. It complicates things, but it’s important. As others think about whether to say yes or no (and as we do, ourselves), the choice often isn’t between deal and no deal. Rather it is between accepting the proposal on the table or continuing the negotiation in hopes of getting still more. If you haven’t done so already, check out the When to End Negotiations module earlier in this unit.
Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Penguin Books; Updated, Revised edition, 2011.
William Ury, Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations, Bantam; Revised edition, 1993.
Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Harper Business, 2016.