The Secret to Turning No into Yes

A huge key to success is simply not giving up. But…sometimes you hit what feels like a brick wall along the way. You need someone else’s help or agreement to go further, but all you hear is no. Here are a few ways to turn “no” into “yes”.

Don’t ask

If you’re not sure whether or not you’re allowed to do something, why not assume you can? The saying that “It’s easier to beg for forgiveness than ask permission” is often very true. And you may find that folks are ok with things that they might have reflexively said no to originally — once they see how well they turned out when you did them.

Ask a different question

When you really need someone else’s help or permission, the method I’ve found most effective, by far, is to ask a different question entirely.

For example, many times people start out by asking, “Can I do _____?”. Ask that, and you’ll often hear no, either because the person you’re asking believes that it’s not allowed, or because they just don’t know the answer — and most people hate to admit that they don’t know something. They’d rather walk over hot coals, or at the very least venture an (often completely inaccurate) opinion.

So don’t ask whether you can do something. Ask how you can do it instead. That way, you’re more likely to get an “I don’t know” in response (if the person doesn’t) or an actual answer if they do.

And if you still end up hearing “I don’t know”, you can respond with “Thanks. Who do you think might be able to help with that?”

Eventually, you’ll almost always find someone who can help.

Use baby steps

But what if you want to make a change that depends on someone else’s approval? For example, suppose your goal is to work from the beach in another state, instead of from the office in your city. Baby steps can help ease people into the idea, while proving that it will work.

You might start by trying out working from home for a half day — maybe because you have to wait for a plumber. When that goes well several times, give working from home for a full day a try. Then a couple of times a month, then once a week, etc.

Gradually increase the amount of time you’re doing so, while making yourself as indispensable as possible at the same time. Next, try working from home full time on a trial basis. Then begin traveling to the beach while continuing your work. Finally, take the steps you need to make the situation (and your move) permanent.

When all else fails, pretend you’re a kid

Kids are very, very good at getting what they want, and it’s because they are persistent. Picture a kid wanting to stay up “just 5 more minutes”, or a teenager trying to get a rule changed. They know how to get what they want, and they often do — even if it’s sometimes at the expense of other things.

So if something is really important to you, keep asking until you get the answer you’re looking for. Try different angles. Bargain. Go up the chain of command. Enlist allies. Ask for alternatives that are very, very close to what you really want.  Keep at it, and you’re very likely to get there.

Today’s tweetable: [tweetherder]Don’t ask WHETHER you can do something; ask HOW you can do it instead[/tweetherder]

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4 comments

  • I usually keep asking questions to get what I want. Questions such as What do I need to do to get……….! I usually get what I want.

  • Loved this post! Great tips in here – definitely the one about just doing something and asking for forgiveness later. Depending on what you are doing, you may not even need to ask for forgiveness because the person will likely be happy with what you did in the long run.

    Another tip I learned is that when you are asking a question, instead of raising the pitch of your voice (like you would typically do at the end of a question) lower it as if you are making a statement. People are more likely to say yes if they are subtly convinced you are SAYING more than ASKING. I’ve tried it out a few times – not sure it’s the reason people say “yes” but I’m sure it helped :)

    Thomas

    • Good tip, and that’s a great point that people might actually be happy with what you’ve done if you just go ahead and do it.