Yes Lives in the Land of No

Yes Lives in the Land of No

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We are often afraid of asking for what we want because we dread hearing no. What if we operated under the assumption that “yes lives in the land of no?” I share some of my deepest fears, recent client successes and misses that demonstrate that yes, “yes lives in the land of no.”



Full Episode Transcript

Hello! Welcome to episode number 24. This is Born to Thrive with Jamie Lee. I’m your host and coach, Jamie Lee.

How are you?

How have you been?

Today I want to talk about how YES lives in the land of NO. I love that.

I got that quote from this great book that I am re-reading. It’s called The Prosperous Coach, written by Rich Litvin and Steve Chandler, and it’s all about enrolling coaching clients. So if you are a coach and if you are listening to this, I highly, highly recommend it.

I think it’s so relevant to remember that yes lives in the land of NO for our negotiation strategy because negotiation is simply a conversation with the intention of reaching an agreement where everyone has the right to say NO. And you’ve had that right to say NO ever since you were, what, two years old if you are verbal?

So take your current age - I’m 36, so I’m gonna take two from my age, so for 34 years I have enjoyed the right to say NO. I continue to enjoy the right to say NO. And for 34 years, I’ve engaged in countless small, big conversations with the intention of reaching an agreement where I had the right to say NO.

And it’s the same for you.

In other words, we’ve negotiated most of our lives. Ever since we’ve been able to say that word, NO, because negotiation requires your autonomous decision-making process.

In other words, negotiated agreement is one where everyone involved in the negotiation has considered all the reasons they’d say NO to something.

They’ve considered all their objections.

And in that process, either because of their objections or in spite of their objections, they have arrived at YES. YES, let’s proceed with this particular agreement.

I think it’s really important to remember that because we live in a culture where we are uncomfortable with objections. It’s almost counterintuitive to think through that we have to listen for objections because in our culture we tend to listen for agreement.

You listen to somebody speak at a conference and they’re saying something that you totally agree with and you’re like yes, yes, this is it! And you love it, you’re nodding your head and you write down what they’re saying because you love listening and agree.

Negotiation can be uncomfortable because we have to listen through their objections, address them and help the other side get to a decision and we’d like them to get to a YES, usually, right?

So I see this problem of the discomfort around YES, the discomfort around NO, play out in my business in two ways.

It creates this fantasy because we think of YES and NO as binary. We think of YES and NO as either/or not that YES lives in the land of NO.

So one way this impacts my business is that sometimes I get afraid of doing something really, really well. It’s a very subconscious level of fear. I have this fantasy that if I provide a solution, if I give an offer to my audience, give one freebie webinar, write one spectacular email and then I’ll be just overwhelmed with so many YESes, so many clients will come knocking down my door that I wouldn’t know how to handle this level of success.

There will be too many YESes, and what will I do? They’ll find out that I’m not good enough and it’ll be a total failure.

So there’s this, at a deep level, a fear of success or a fear of too many YESes.

Or there are the other times where I fear getting one stinging rejection and that fear of getting one stinging rejection holds me back from making my ask as boldly and confidently as I know that I could.

And I know that with my clients sometimes this fear of rejection, fear of hearing NO holds them back from speaking up, showing up and having their say.

So you think there’s gonna be either too many YESes - well, I say, I have experienced the fear of too many YESes.

Hasn’t happened yet, though.

Or that there’s gonna be this one stinging NO that’s going to hurt me so much that I would not be able to recover and function.

So this trap happens when I think of YES and NO as binary, as either/or.  But when I consider the truth that YES lives in the land of NO, it sheds light on my negative, limiting beliefs. It helps me see that yeah, I can deal with YESes, I can deal with NOs.

In fact, because YES lives in the land of NO, I should seek out NOs and in the process of seeking out NOs, I can get the YESes.

I also want to tie this back to negotiation strategy, because I know a lot of people that are listening to this, you’re interested in how do I negotiate better? How do I negotiate my salary better, right? And I have spoken in the past of the key strategy of anchoring high and anchoring first.

I think this strategy has sometimes gotten misunderstood by my audience, by people who read my content, so I want to clarify that. I want to clarify that in this strategy of anchoring high and anchoring first, yes, the YES lives in the land of NO. It involves both YES and NO.

Let me clarify. So, anchoring first and anchoring high means, first of all, you want to understand what your target number is. You want to decide on it.

So if you are gunning for a position and you decide I’d be really happy with $100,000. I’m making $80,000 right now and so I would love to make $100,000 in my next job. That’s your target number and you have done your research, you’ve spoken to people in the industry, you’ve done some online research and you know that the going market rate ranges. It’s around $90k to $100k plus.

So once you have done your research and you have prepared your value statements that you can demonstrate your benefit to your potential employer, you can articulate that you are somebody who can help solve their problems and you are somebody who can hit the ground running by contributing value to the company’s bottom line. Once you have done that level of preparation, now let’s talk about your anchor number.

In other words, at this point, you have your target number, what you really want, and you also have prepared your why statement. Why you want what you want.

Okay, so you’d be happy at $100k, but you know that this is a negotiation and that employers are incentivized to hire the best candidate for the least amount of money. It’s not because they are evil. It’s not because they’re anything else. It’s because that’s how good businesses are run. So it’s in their interest to hire for the least amount of money and it’s in your interest to present your case as to why you deserve the high end of the range.

So if you want $100,000, don’t ask for $100,000. Instead, go to your anchor number, go a step or two higher, so ask for $115,000. So when, during the interview process, you’re asked what is your desired salary range, I would suggest to my client in this specific case to go ahead and anchor first and anchor high. “I’d be really happy at $115,000.”

You’re telling them what you want.

This strategy doesn’t just assume that just because you asked for your anchor number that it will be given to you automagically.

It assumes that this will invite the other side to a more in-depth conversation.

So, to be more specific, if the other side says, “You know, that’s a little bit higher than what we had budgeted. Could we talk about other ways to make this work?”, that is an invitation to a brainstorming conversation.

What else do you want? Are there non-monetary terms? Do you want a bigger title? Do you want more PTO? Do you want more face-time with the CEO?

In other words, how can we make this work so that you get what you want, closer to your target number and also sweeten the deal so that you accept this job offer sooner rather than later?

Now, this is an ideal situation, of course. It doesn’t always go that way, I have learned.

I just recently spoke with a client who unfortunately had a negotiation go...not so well. I didn’t coach her through this negotiation, she sought me out after it all went down.

She had assumed that the art of anchoring high and anchoring first is to really, really go extremely high and she did not anticipate the NO. She did not anticipate the objections.

What had happened was she was in a role making about $50,000 and she looked up the role that she wants to have and in that research, she found out that the going market rate is $75,000, which is 50% higher than her current salary.

So she brought this research to the negotiation with her supervisor and she asked for $75,000. She asked for a 50% salary increase.

And the response was a loud and clear NO.

$75k is, she was told, the salary that somebody receives at levels two or three levels higher than she. So they made it clear to her that no, this is not something that we can do. You will get a salary increase but this is not possible and it’s because, in our eyes, you are not a director. You do not have the title of director. We’re not giving you the title of director. So, no, that’s out of the question.

And so, if I had the opportunity to coach her through this, I would have done a few things, which is to advise her to find out what is a reasonable salary range for the role that she is going to be in.

Remember, she was being promoted, just not at a director level. So I would have advised her to do more research so that she could have anchored at a more reasonably ambitious mark.

Also, another thing I would have advised her to do after this juncture, after hearing the initial NO, is not to go to bargaining mode.

Not to say, “Okay well, if $75k doesn’t work, let’s go to $72k. Does that work?”  No. Don’t do that. Obviously, there’s been a mismatch of perception. This NO gave her a lot of information that at this particular employer, that $75,000 range is what somebody who would be two or three levels higher than she would make.

I would have suggested that she just get curious.

She obviously hadn’t done enough preparation, enough research to make a reasonably ambitious ask, but this is also an opportunity to get curious and find out, “Okay, well, you know what? I’m really glad you told me that. I obviously didn’t do enough research. I’d like to find out what is a reasonable salary range for the role I’m going into and I’m also curious. What can I do to set myself up for that director, senior management track? Because I’d love to be contributing at a higher level and also, at the same time, I’d love to be making more money and so, I’d love to know what are you looking for in terms of people who get hired at that level? I’d love to know how I can bridge that gap.”

And so this could have turned into a great conversation that could have generated advice, mentorship, and better understanding.

But I was told by her that unfortunately, this is not what had happened.

It’s so painful to get that initial NO because in our society and culture we have the tendency to attach our ego to our jobs, our salaries, to YESes, not NOs.

What would be possible if we didn’t attach our ego to the outcome?

What if we didn’t attach our ego to that number?

It’s just a number.

And I can hear your eyes rolling as I say this.

Jamie, you don’t understand. That’s easy for you to say because you’re a coach. I need this job. I need this money. I need to be respected. I need to be heard.

I feel so disrespected. I feel so undervalued. You don’t understand. I really need the negotiation to go well so that I can prove myself.

To which I want to share this gem of a quote from one of my favorite negotiation books, it’s called Start With No. It’s written by Jim Camp and I think it’s relevant because when we operate under the assumption that YES lives in the land of NO and when we welcome NOs and welcome YESes equally, we need to lose our neediness. So, I’ll read from this book:

“Today, in the twenty-first century, we’re not needy. We’re just not, but we nevertheless still hear people say, “I need this jacket.” Or “I need to make this call.” Or “I need this job.” Or “I need to talk to you.” Or “I need this deal.” We use the word 'need' much too casually.

The only things we truly need are the basics of physical survival - air, water, food, clothing, shelter - and everyone reading this book already has these.”

And I would add, everyone listening to this podcast, as well.

“We also need the basics of intellectual and emotional well-being - love, family, friendship, satisfying work, hobbies, faith - each reader has his or her own list here. But it’s a short list and it does not - or should not - include the $500 jacket or the $100,000 car, because there are other jackets and cars. It should not include this particular job or sale or deal, because there are other jobs and sales and deals.”

So, what I take away from this quote is that when we lose our neediness, we open ourselves up to abundance. And when we open ourselves up to the fact that YES lives in the land of NO and yes, there may be more NOs than YESes in that land of NO, so much can be possible.

What if we aim for NOs?

What if we aim to listen for the NO and for the objection and to really understand why people say NO to our ask?

What could happen?

I have a client who recently flipped a NO into a YES and in the process negotiated a $15,000 salary increase.

She had a contact with her dream job company. It’s one of the largest online websites in a particular field, I’ll say, for job search and she had one contact, a friend who worked there, so she reached out to her contact, her friend, and she got information about the work culture and through that connection she got inspired to apply for a position with that job through a recruiter.

So she applied and she went through the initial phase of that process, but then she was rejected after that first round, I think it was a phone interview, because they said, “Oh, you know, you’re not quite what we’re looking for, so oh, sorry, we’re not gonna proceed with you.”

So, she was told NO.

But she didn’t let this NO discourage her. She didn’t let this NO get to her ego and create stories about how this isn’t gonna work out for her or that anything would work out for her. Instead, she was open.

And the recruiter said, “Well, we’re not gonna proceed with you, however, if you would like an informal interview, informational interview with one of the hiring managers here since you are particularly interested in this particular job, we can set that up for you.” And she said yes. She said yes to the offer for an informal interview after she was rejected for the job.

And then she did the thing that most people don’t do. She actually followed up on that offer, even though she was rejected. She connected with the hiring manager.

The hiring manager gave her a tour of the office and at the end of this conversation, the hiring manager said, “Hey, would you like a job here?” To which she had to say, “Well, you know, actually I did apply and I was turned down.”

But because she was optimistic, because she followed through, because she showed up in person, the hiring manager said, “Well, you know, we could take that job that you were turned down for, bring it down a notch in terms of hierarchy and see if that will work.”

And so that’s what she did, she was initially applying for a managerial position and then she interviewed again through that hiring manager connection for an assistant manager position and she got that job. And in the process she anchored, she framed for benefit and she increased her salary by $15,000. So, for her, YES lived in the land of NO. I love that story.

So, I just want to wrap this up with this: in your negotiation journey, you’re going to get a NO. You’re going to get NOs. And that’s a good thing. Because it means that you asked. It means that you’re gaining experience.

And when you get that NO, don’t get furious, just get curious. Try to understand why people said no. Listen for objections. And if you listen long enough to their objections and if you try to really understand their objections from their point of view, you have the opportunity to flip that NO into a YES like my client did.


So, I wish you many YESes and I wish you as many NOs, because YES lives in the land of NO. Thank you, and I’ll talk to you soon!

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