Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Book Review - "The Power of a Positive No"

“The Power of a Positive No” by William Ury

William Ury is the co-author of the “Bible” of negotiators, “Getting to Yes” (written along with Roger Fisher); and also authored the follow-up book “Getting Past No”. Ury writes that this third book, “The Power of a Positive No” is the final element of the trilogy. By applying the understanding presented in these three books, negotiators of all stripes are able to bring disputing parties together into agreement.

In daily life, we all understand the need for boundaries. We also instinctively realize that in order to protect our boundaries, we must learn to say “No”. “No” is a necessary tool. However, this creates a dilemma for relationship. How do we maintain a boundary space between our Self and Others, while remaining linked to that Other?

Enter the technique of “Yes! No. Yes?” Ury presents this series of responses as the powerful way to say “No” (maintain a boundary), while still preserving relationship.

Here is how it works: your “Yes!” represents your values and your fundamental character. It is rooted in the unchangeable features that make up what you are. It emphatically states what you stand for, and what is immovable in your life. It may be important to you to say “Yes!” to integrity, honesty, love, kindness, generosity, or hard work. It is where your purpose, passion, and personal vision live. It is expressed with exclamation because it is just that bold and meaningful.

Your “No.” represents your boundary. It stands for what is not okay with you, or what you will not do, allow, or agree to. It affirms your right as a human being to make autonomous choices. It is stated with clarity and straightforward expression, without any extraneous explanation or excuse. It is a simple statement that preserves your self-respect as well as the dignity of the Other. It treats all parties with a clear, concise, specific line over which you will not cross.

Your “Yes?” represents a reaching out to the Other. It proposes an alternate plan, one that will not violate your values or vision, but extends connection to the Other in order to preserve relationship. It places value on both your own personal identity, while still valuing the needs and wants of the Other.

Your “Yes?” is freely given, no strings attached. You will not back off from your “No.”, you will not renounce your “Yes!”, but the “Yes?” is an offer. It is put forth to the Other as an invitation – and it is entirely the choice of the Other whether they will accept your “Yes?” offer, decline it, or make a counteroffer. If they make a counteroffer, then you can start all over again with the “Yes! No. Yes?” technique. If the counteroffer does not violate your “Yes!” or your “No.”, then you have agreement, and both your Self and your relationship is preserved and strengthened.

William Ury presents a wealth of examples from everyday life, as well as from his extensive experience as a negotiator, to demonstrate this technique. In his book, he breaks out each of the elements of the “Yes! No. Yes?” tool, and carefully tutors the reader in how to be effective at each step. A good portion of the early chapters is dedicated to helping the reader identify and clarify their values, so that they can be quite solid in the expression of their “Yes!”

In the middle chapters, he illustrates the “No.” statement with multiple examples – each demonstrating the principles of firmness, respect, conciseness, and clearness that he espouses. The final chapters provide a multitude of ideas to creatively extend the “Yes?”, as well as how to respond to the Other when they accept your “Yes?”, or when they return with a counteroffer.

This book is highly recommended, not only to alternative dispute practitioners, but to anyone who negotiates in everyday life. If you can fog a mirror, you need this book. It will improve the quality of all of your relationships, both the ones that you have opted into for the joy of it, as well as the ones that you are bound to by necessity or circumstance.


No comments: