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The Power of a Positive No

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The Power of a Positive No

How to Say No and Still Get to Yes

Bantam Dell,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Great managers and negotiators can say no so that it sounds like yes– and that’s an indispensable skill.

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Imagine that you are a police department’s hostage negotiator. An armed man who has just lost his job is holding his wife and children hostage in their barricaded home. He threatens to kill his family and himself unless the authorities turn over the boss who fired him so he can “administer fiery justice.” How do you tell this potential murderer no without jeopardizing everyone in the house? The professionals who negotiate during such extreme situations know how to refuse in such a way that no one gets hurt. That’s a useful skill, even when lives are not at stake. William Ury, head of Harvard’s Global Negotiation Project, has negotiated agreements that have ended bloody conflicts around the world. Here, he outlines a nimble strategy for delivering a “Positive No” in every situation. This approach enables you to be firm about your values and state your opinions without alienating others. getAbstract suggests this book to anyone who has to deliver an occasional no and make it stick.


No, Thanks. I’d Rather Not Die from Your Blue Plate Special

A senior executive had to spend a lot of time on the road. As a result, he ate many of his meals in restaurants. He suffered from a heart condition so serious that eating oil or butter could have killed him. Every time he ordered a meal, he asked the server to make sure that the cook did not prepare his food with butter or oil. Many times, the server just ignored the request, seeing the executive as a cranky troublemaker. Considering the life-and-death stakes involved, anyone might lose his or her temper at such dangerous treatment. But getting angry with servers and cooks would not have solved the executive’s dilemma.

Instead, he fixed his problem creatively. Whenever someone served him food prepared with oil or butter, he quickly drew a diagram of his cardiovascular system on a paper napkin. His sketch graphically illustrated that the three main arteries leading to his heart were seriously blocked. “My doctors say if I have any butter or oil, I’ll die,” the executive would then politely explain. “So may I ask you please to take this fish back and have it grilled without any fat?” Invariably, this approach...

About the Author

William Ury heads Harvard University’s Global Negotiation Project. He is the co-author of Getting to Yes, and a leader in the global “e-Parliament,” designed to advance democracy by developing an ongoing international forum to address global problems.

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