Can You Grow From a “No”?

Posted on Categories Negotiation

On occasion, my brother-in-law and I get to thinking about the same topic.  His venue is a weekly sermon often linked to the Torah portion, while mine is the classroom and the blog.  I had much fun talking with him last week as he wrote his sermon “Can You Grow From a No?”  and I am delighted to link to his full sermon from two weeks ago in which I am the obliquely-referenced sister-in-law.  As he said,

To be human is to be in constant negotiation with other people, and those negotiations will either end in “yesses” or in “no’s.” And because we have needs, because we know what we think we want, because we are vain and have egos, we want those exchanges to end with a “yes.” We want our cravings to be met, our opinions proven true and our positions affirmed. A “yes” brings satisfaction. Our will has prevailed, our efforts have paid off, our selves have been validated. A “yes” means we were right.

“No’s” are less fun. “No’s” signal defeat. When someone tells us “no,” we feel a little piece of us die. We are bruised and we are hurt, diminished in the eyes of others and in our own eyes.

But here is the thing. Since our lives are filled with negotiation, we all know that “no’s” await us all; they lurk right around the corner for each of us. So the question isn’t how to avoid them; they are inevitable. The question is, how do we respond to them when they happen? Which leads us back to my original question: “Can you grow from a ‘no?’”

Both of our answers are undoubtedly “yes,” and his sermon is quite eloquent in all the ways that hearing “no” can make us stronger.  As for me, I would argue that negotiation theory shows us the usefulness of hearing “no.”  No’s can make us more creative, no’s can make us step back and rethink, no’s can enourage us to bring in other opinions about how to get something done.  I truly believe that the most effective negotiators not only know how to get to yes, they realize that the pathway to yes might be strewn with no’s along the way.

Cross posted at Indisputably.

2 thoughts on “Can You Grow From a “No”?”

  1. No’s are a great way to better understand what another person thinks or why they are thinking in a certain way. When someone says no, I think we are more inclined to follow up with a why question than if another person says yes. A yes may cause one to stop pursuing a better understanding because we tend to like people to agree with us. Yet, no’s probably tell you more about what the other person’s boundaries are then a simple yes. If we continue to ask follow-up questions until we get a no answer then the other person’s true feelings are more likely to be discovered. When I ask someone if they liked a movie that I liked and they say yes, I may think we are in agreement. But, I don’t really know what, if anything we agreed to. They may have liked the movie because they thought it was funny even though the acting was bad and I may have liked the movie because I liked how realistic the acting was and actually didn’t see much humor in the movie at all. No’s can force clarifying questions that may not be voiced if the other person just says yes and should be appreciated more than yesses.

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