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Why You Need to Use No-Oriented Questions™ in a Negotiation

By |April 10, 2023

The goal of using No-Oriented Questions™ is to transition out of eliciting a yes response from your counterpart and try to get them to agree by saying no instead. 

The logic is simple: When someone says yes, they’re committing to something, and people are hesitant to make such commitments. On the other hand, when they can say no, they feel protected. 

When you’re in a negotiation, it’s easy to try to get your counterpart to agree by saying yes. If we use yes momentum and get a bunch of little yeses in response to our questions, we think we will get another yes when it comes time to make our big ask.

But there are problems with the word “yes.” We all like to hear it but don’t like to say it. At the same time, there’s always the problem of the counterfeit yes, which occurs when the other side says yes to get you to go away, satisfying your immediate needs with no intention of actually delivering.

Flipping yes-oriented questions around and shooting for no changes that. By removing the feeling of being forced to commit to something, the other side no longer feels trapped. At the same time, because most people shoot for yes in a negotiation, No-Oriented Questions can help you differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack. You’ll sound different from everyone else, which will help you catch people’s attention and make them think.

How to Use No-Oriented Questions™ in a Negotiation

If you’re new to No-Oriented Questions, it can feel a bit awkward to use them. But once you grow accustomed to them, they will naturally roll off the tongue. Here are a few examples:

  • Instead of asking: “Do you agree?” Ask: “Do you disagree?”
  • Instead of asking: “Do you have a few minutes?” Ask: “Is now a bad time to talk?”
  • Instead of asking: “Does this sound like a good idea?” Ask: “Does this sound like a horrible idea?”

Generally speaking, you won’t see major differences across the negotiator types. But there are a few important considerations to keep in mind:

  • The Analyst will probably be the most open to No-Oriented Questions. Analysts don’t want to agree to anything because they always think there’s a catch. When you lead with a No-Oriented Question, the Analyst is unlikely to feel you’re hiding something.
  • The Assertive won’t care one way or the other. They know what deal is best and will keep pushing for it regardless of whether you’re asking yes- or No-Oriented Questions.
  • The Accommodator is the most likely to say yes without any plans to deliver. They might feel that saying no will make the other side hate them. Because they want to preserve the relationship and hope things work out, this individual is most likely to use the counterfeit yes.

No-Oriented Questions can also help you improve your email marketing game. In our experience, email subject lines that include No-Oriented Questions get opened roughly 25 percent more than those with standard subject lines.

If you’re trying to schedule a meeting with someone, write a subject line like this: Is it going to ruin your day to schedule a quick meeting? If you’ve been ghosted for weeks, we suggest firing off an email with this subject line: Have you given up on working together? Who wants to be known as a quitter?

It’s time to get unstuck! Here are five tactics for negotiating with difficult  people. Download here  >>

No-Oriented Questions: Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many ways to get your counterpart to agree by saying no. That said, there are still a few considerations to keep in mind.

Many of our clients pick up this skill quickly and want to use No-Oriented Questions a lot. Although these questions can help you in a negotiation, you don’t want to overuse them. After all, No-Oriented Questions aren’t used for gathering information—they’re just a way to get someone to agree without saying yes.

So only use No-Oriented Questions to make your big ask. Before dropping the hammer, use Labels™, paraphrasing, and a Summary™ to uncover information. With these skills, you’re not aiming for yes. You want to hear “Exactly!” and "That's Right"™ to know your counterpart feels understood.

As always, we recommend practicing No-Oriented Questions in low-stakes situations: 

  • Next time you’re at a restaurant and a meal comes out late, launch into an Accusation Audit® and then ask a No-Oriented Question: You’re probably going to think I sound very greedy. Would it be impossible to comp the one meal that came out late?
  • When you find yourself at a hotel, ask for an upgrade: How much trouble would I get you in with your manager if I asked for a complimentary upgrade? You’ll either find out you’re talking to the manager, or you’ll get the clerk to ask whether it’s feasible.

Now that you know how No-Oriented Questions can help you in a negotiation, it’s time to continue your negotiation training by reading our e-book, 5 Negotiation Tactics for Dealing with Difficult People.

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