Win-Win Negotiation: What To Say After Hearing A ‘No'



There is never a need to give up or give in simply because someone says "no" to a request you have made. Using the process of Nonviolent Communication, we simply listen for the "yes" behind the "no." Let me provide an example: Suppose you come home tired from work and ask your mate if they can prepare dinner and they decline. Instead of getting upset or complaining, you can switch gears, and listen with empathy to your mate's feelings and needs. Empathy is stated in the form of a question, as the other person is the final authority on what they are feeling and needing in any given moment. Therefore, we never want to tell someone what they are feeling or needing. We can only guess.

In this case, our guess might sound something like this: Are you feeling tired also and have a need to eat something quickly? We do not have to guess accurately. The point is that if we are sincere, even if we are inaccurate, the other will correct us and our guess will help them hone in on and pinpoint their true feelings as well.

Let us say we are inaccurate and our mate responds, "No, I am not hungry. I want to watch the game." Now, we have more information. We do not have to be "addicted" to our original strategy (in this case our mate preparing dinner). If you continue to negotiate, alternating between honesty and empathy, the perfect strategy or solution will find you. In this case, there are multiple strategies that could meet both of your needs. For example, you might rest while he or she watches the game and then prepare dinner later, or you might order dinner in and watch the game with your mate, while you are resting on the couch beside them.

If people knew how to say "no" using Nonviolent Communication, they would express their needs that would not be met if they were to say "yes" to a proposed strategy. That would make negotiations so much easier, because the other's needs would already be out on the table. Many people have not learned how to readily express their needs without confusing them with strategies and sounding like they are making demands. Therefore, I encourage you to be alert to hearing those unspoken needs so that you can get them out upon the table. Remember, we do not want to propose solutions until all needs are on the table so that they strategies will meet the needs of all concerned. In this way, no one will walk away from the table feeling resentment and any solutions undertaken will spring forth from a place of willingness within the heart.

-- Send comments or questions about relationships and communication to: Ask Dr. Donna, P.O. Box 2204, Payson, AZ, 85547 or e-mail

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