Getting to Yes is a great book about negotiating in a way that serves the interests of both parties. It is also the implicit goal of everyone who needs to collaborate with others in some way. For most of my professional life, the goal of getting to an agreement has been the pulse of almost everything I've done. It's a noble goal.
But yes is a horrible relationship builder. Yes is easy. I know - I'm a recovering people pleaseer - it is so much easier to say yes. Even when it's distracting, time-consuming, against your nature and counterproductive. It also sweeps issues under the rug - to mold, fester or dry up.
When we say yes we withhold our perspective and concerns, which are infinitely valuable for the other party to understand. When we say yes, we withhold the gift of our truth and make it harder for the other person to be self-aware. When we say yes easily, it is impossible to understand whether interests of both parties are really aligned - and therefore it is a risky, risky yes.
Like many aha moments this one slammed into me without warning one day when I asked someone with less power then myself to do something. She looked at me with fearful timidity and in a way that I knew she wanted to say no but was afraid of disappointing me. I realized that at that moment, I had the opportunity to significantly impact our relationship for better or for worse. If I gave her the space to say no comfortably, she would not only be relieved and grateful but she was more likely to be upfront and honest with me going forward - providing me with authentic feedback. Or I could project my disappointment and she would shrink from me and our relationship and would never tell me anything she didn't think I wanted to hear. And I realized she was giving me a gift - the opportunity to change the inflection of our relationship. And it hit me:
Flipping the dynamic I realized that how someone responds to no is a powerful indicator of the character of the other party and the potential of a relationship. Why wouldn't you want to figure that out as quickly as possible?
Most people don't take no very well and that is kind of a bummer because saying no means ending those conversations and arresting those relationships. But when you say no and instead of someone disengaging, they respond by digging deeper to find where you can collaborate, it opens up a world of possibilities and potential. Those are the relationships that transcend transactional exchanges and lead to rich collaborations where everyone wins. I want more of those relationships and the best way I know how, is to get to no as quickly as possible.