By Tania Almeida *

Perhaps because he is an anthropologist, William Ury has always surprised me with his ability to build ideas and make reflections that express human interaction in the world of negotiations. In line with the attention to humanity, Ury affirms that our fears are our biggest obstacles to say no successfully. Giving in and shutting up arise in the face of fear and guilt, while reactive combat puts our anger into action. Perhaps, by identifying a good foundation for sustaining the our no and to make it understandable to the other, neither fear, nor guilt, nor anger need to support our actions.

Power of the Non-Positive and your goal of being able to say No, taking care of the relationship and, at the same time, of sustaining a No well-founded, it is an undisputed example of how the most tense moment in a negotiation process - the act of refusing something proposed by the other - can come packed with care and, sometimes, even showing benefits for all negotiators at the table. Sensational!

The most expressive tips from the author and their fundamentals

This is another good surprise in Ury's works: always justify attitudes or interventions, taking the other into consideration, in favor of good negotiation. Because there are many contributions by the author to this field, I selected some, sometimes so embodied in our practices as mediators or negotiators, that function as 'the best phrases' that are usually selected from great authors in history.

Let's start with the sequence that gives the book its title: (i) unveil your Sim; (ii) give power to your No; (iii) respect the path to accepting your No.

(I) Unravel your yes - a positive No never starts the conversation. In order for one to be unable to listen, we need to be proactive and not reactive. We need, looking from the balcony (go the balcony), expression consecrated by Ury, and having our emotions under control, unveil, first, why our No. Knowing my Yes to the interests, needs and values ​​that support my No leads me to what I want to preserve, as well as knowing the intentions that support the construction of my No.

Unraveling my Yes, I gain a sense of direction (where to go and where not to go) and energy (psychic strength) to anchor my No to something positive. So I start my No to the other, for what I want to keep positive: because I want to maintain our friendship… because I want to remain impartial… because I want to be free in this situation…, I say No. saying No and offering the other the basis, the motivation for your No.

Give power to your No - to support your No, it should not be punitive, but should have the power to protect your interests, needs and values. If the other accepts your No, great, it will respect with you what underpins your No. If you don’t accept your No, your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement), your plan B, is your ability to serve your interests, needs and values, regardless of whether the other agrees to respect them. So your need not be well grounded in Sins that you want to preserve, achieve.

(Iii) Respect the path to accepting your No
- how to prepare the other to accept your No? Simple answer: treating you with dignity. How not to treat others with dignity? Rejecting or disqualifying the claim that he also has. In doing so, you will close your interlocutor's ears to your message, and you will be able to watch the worst and the most destructive of your reactions, compromising the relationship between you. There, you have known the Power of the Non-Negative.

Respect for the other works for their own benefit. In this way, listening to him carefully, to understand his interests, needs and values, and not to refute them, is part of the mutual respect that both wish to see effective in the negotiation. The care with words, the absence of charge, negative categorization (derogatory adjectives) or judgment are essential to maintain respect for the table. Clarification questions, recognition and acceptance from the other's point of view are more than welcome, they are necessary.

Highlighting shared interests and standards, confirm a positive basis of common values ​​or purposes. And if both of you can benefit from your No, we get the icing on the cake! 

Therefore, when a No to the other needs to be part of a negotiation, it will be good practice to follow the sequence above, in addition to taking care that your positive No does not end the conversation. The communication should end with an invitation to a positive result. As Ury says: when you close one door, open another. Offer a third option, invent options for both to win, target future possibilities. Want a simple example? There it goes: because I am very committed to the review of my book, I cannot, at this moment, act as a speaker at the event you organize, but I will be attentive to the next opportunities I can identify, especially because they are always occasions for learning exchange.

Ury finishes the book with a touch of CNV - Nonviolent Communication, suggesting that when the Nãos refer to behaviors, they can present themselves with a constructive indication of what would best suit them in relational terms, provided that it is a viable, respectful and positive request enunciated.

And if the other does not accept your No, go to the balcony (look at the situation as an attentive and respectful observer) and use the power of not reacting negatively, but keeping your No very well supported in your interests, needs and values. And remember plan B: respect your no regardless of whether the other is unwilling to accept it.

In the end, act in such a way that both feel respected and legitimized. Conclude the situation in a positive and careful tone. Lesson learned!

The Power of the Non-Positive. How to Say No and Still Get to Yes
William Ury
Editora Elsevier; 1st edition (12 February 2007)
264 pages


In our next conversation I want to share the reflections that came from reading Negotiating at an Uneven Table - a practical approach to working with difference and diversity, an iconic work by Phyllis Beck Kritek, in support of work with unbalanced tables in power.

* Tania Almeida - Master in Conflict Mediation and Facilitator of Dialogues between individuals and / or legal entities. For 40 years, she has been designing and coordinating dialogue processes aimed at mapping, crisis prevention, change management and conflict resolution. She is the creator and founder of the MEDIARE System, a set of three entities dedicated to dialogue - research, service provision, education and social projects.

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