Because Saying Yes to No Will Get You Everywhere

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Jim Camp, founder, CEO, and president of Coach2100 and author of No: The Only Negotiating System You Need for Work and Home (, is convinced that no is one of the most powerful negotiation tools around. We asked him to put his favorite word to work in a variety of scenarios.

By Jenna Schnuer

The scene: You decide your employees need to go through a self-study training program for a new project.

How to put no to work: When you introduce the program to employees, tell them that they have permission to tell you that, no, they don’t plan to do the training. “If they don’t say no and they agree to do it, now they’ve made a commitment to move forward with it,” says Camp. “If they say no, the manager has someone to work with to help him or her discover the importance of the training.”

The scene: A consultant is ready to tell a client the problems with their latest marketing campaign.

How to put no to work: The key to this whole thing is to set an agenda, says Camp. Say, “Let’s talk about this before we get started here. Do you want me to tell you the truth, or do you want me to lie to you?” After they ask for the truth, you then say, “I’m going to give you my ideas, and when I’m finished, just say no to them if you disagree.” This, says Camp, “establishes what’s going to happen. For a consultant, that’s a critical piece of the puzzle.” If they respond with a no, say, “Obviously, I’m falling short. Let me see if I can go in another direction and help you see what I see. Is that okay with you?”

The scene: A parent can’t figure out why his or her teen refuses to do math homework.

How to put no to work: There’s a good chance the teen hasn’t made — or doesn’t yet care about — the connection between math and life outside the classroom. Respect that thinking by finding out his or her take on the topic. Say, “I’m not helping you discover mathematics. I want you to be comfortable saying no to me on this. Is math important to our society?” If he answers, “No,” open a discussion about the ways that math is important to daily life — and keep that discussion going until the connection is made.


Whether you're at home, at work, or deep into planning the PTA bake sale, keep Jim Camp's rules for — and for negotiation in general — in mind.

1. The most dangerous negotiation you’ll ever be in is the one you don’t know you’re in.

2. No is not the end of the negotiation; it’s the beginning.

3. The professional negotiator embraces no and seeks no from the other party.

4. No is nothing more than a decision to be changed.

5. No helps influence and manage the emotions of the other party.

6. No breaks down barriers when it’s given with permission.