Never say "No!" or "Yes!" Say "Yes if...."

What You'll Learn
  • Challenging first offers does not mean we should say "No"
  • All counter-proposals should be conditional
  • Using the "Yes, if..." is a powerful driver of creative solutions

Challenging first offers does not mean we should say "No." A challenge is a rational discussion that confronts the reasoning, or interests that support the offer.

What if you are really thinking, "No way!"

We have a tendency to respond to all requests from other parties with a simple "yes" or "no." Neither response is appropriate in negotiations – ever.

Saying “No” Saying “Yes”
Eliminates options Invalidates your last offer
Ends discussions Violates trust
Is face-losing Cuts off creativity
Perceived as confrontational Removes give-and-take
Generates unproductive emotions Generates emotions that are later second-guessed

What is the alternative?

All counter-proposals should be conditional. An effective way to make proposals conditional is to include an "if " in your proposal.

For example, all requests should be responded to with a statement like –

"We can do what you asked if you can ______________________________."

Of course you are not always responding to a request. Sometimes you are making a proposal. In that case, use a statement like –

"We can meet your deadline if you can _____________________________."

  • This is the heart of give-take negotiating.

The "Negotiated Yes," or "Yes, If…"

  • Allows you to say the word "yes" (generating helpful emotions)
  • Validates your opening offer
  • Is more engaging and makes the other side assess options
  • Is more likely to generate, and even force, creativity
  • Provokes a counter-offer even if the other side cannot agree with your "Yes, if…." condition.

The "Negotiated Yes" is more likely to get the other side engaged in the negotiations, a very important step and one not always easily achieved.

The "Negotiated No"

You have probably heard of the "Negotiated No" which also employs a "Yes if…" response. While the "Negotiated No" can be a useful response in some circumstances, don't confuse it with the "Negotiated Yes…".

What's the difference between a "Negotiated Yes" and a "Negotiated No" if in both cases you SAY "Yes, if…"
Negotiated Yes The “yes, if’ is within the Envelope of Reasonability Doable or achievable by the other side
Negotiated No The “yes, if” is outside the Envelope of Reasonability A gracious way of saying “No,” without using the word “No”


In life "No" is sometimes the correct answer, but not in negotiations. Don't use the word "No." That doesn't mean you won't reject the proposal. Instead, use other elegant ways to say “No”:

  1. Use the “ Negotiated No” by giving a “Yes if…” that asks for something so unreasonable that it means “No”;
  2. Ask questions with the Negotiator’s Probe (BNP 16) (and leave the other party’s request unanswered);
  3. Offer legitimate sources (BNP 18) for why the request or proposal is not acceptable;
  4. Make a proposal (BNP 19) yourself (and don’t answer the other party’s original request)
  5. Use negotiation tactics like Limited Authority, Good cop/bad cop, and the Crunch

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