Those of you who are teachers or students of negotiation are no doubt familiar with one of the field’s best known texts, Negotiation: Readings, Exercises, and Cases, by Roy Lewicki et al.
One of its exercises, “Collecting Nos”, is designed to aid students in confronting and overcoming what is for many an overpowering fear and a mighty stumbling block to effective negotiation: the anxiety associated with asking for stuff.
Asking is hard for obvious reasons. We worry that our request will be denied — rejection is tough. Or we’re concerned that we’ll be perceived as pushy or demanding. Or we’ve been taught that it’s rude. But that kind of thinking can get in your way of getting what you need — and keep you from being a good negotiator.
To complete the “Collecting Nos” exercise, you must make requests of others until you have collected 10 nos. My partner Moshe Cohen, who uses this exercise with his students at Boston University School of Management, further specifies that you are limited to one request per person and that the person you make the request of must have the power to grant it.
To vary the exercise slightly, if you get a “no”, ask that person again later on a second time. If they still say no, ask, “What would have to happen for you to say yes?”
In completing this exercise, people make two surprising discoveries: first, how difficult collecting 10 nos turns out to be — people are often much more willing to say yes to requests; and second, good things happen when you ask. Clients I have assigned this exercise to have reported negotiating better fee agreements with their own clients, salary increases, and even job interviews.
It just goes to show you that it never hurts to ask. So why not try the “Collecting Nos” exercise for yourself? Who knows what might happen.
(Source for “Collecting Nos”: Negotiation: Readings, Exercises, and Cases, Roy Lewicki et al., 5th edition, p. 570.)