The art of negotiation: saying ‘no’ with a ‘yes’ mind

Browsing through the internet in the morning, a video clip caught my attention. It read, “Indian nod: Explained!” Amused, I spent the next few minutes watching it. Portrayed hilariously, it brought interesting perspectives on the expression of our thoughts through gestures.

Practically, when people say a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ is it an affirmation or denial to our requests? That’s when we so wish that our interactions become much simpler, effective! With family, friends and at work.

Our perception of people and our relationships with them also influence the way we interact. How often people say yes when they wanted to say no? If we look at why that happens:

(i) Lack of clarity; they are not sure of what they want. We might find them thinking, ‘The mind says yes, but the heart says no.’

(ii) They nod to everything, just to please others.

(iii) Fear of rejection or hurting others’ sentiments.

(iv) A risk to voice their views to people in power positions at work.

(v) A lack of listening on the other side; (or) the listener is in the command-and-control mode.

When this was once discussed with a group of employees, somebody asked, “Why should there be a ‘no’ at all? Why can’t people have a positive mindset and say yes for an answer?”

That brought out the biggest elephant in the room. Saying a ‘no’ was being perceived as a negative mindset. I would call this a paradox.

Would you agree to eat something you are allergic to (or) would make you fall sick? Wouldn’t you then respond differently? You need to learn to say no in similar situations.


Join a Free workshop on Yoga, Meditation and Breath


The power of a positive ‘no’

Being positive does not mean that you agree to everything that people say. It means you need to give a listening ear and have an open mind, but still, ensure that you don’t become a football of others’ opinions.

It is all about saying ‘no’ without saying, NO!

In a workplace situation, do you remember those times of saying yes that wasted your energy, money, time or caused you mental anguish? It is imperative that opinions are stated as is, with supporting facts. If you believe something is not feasible, it is better stated so. That would help ensure that there are no false promises made, even when a lack of time or resources is evident.

While the process could be long drawn, the benefits of saying no when required, are many!

  • Integrity is born, only when thoughts, words, and actions are in alignment.
  • Credibility gets established.
  • With integrity and trust, relationships blossom, team bonding becomes stronger.
  • Focusing only on what is important saves effort.
  • Culminates into productivity and efficiency at work.

Work performance = clarity in mind + sincerity in action + sensitivity/ awareness to people and situations

More so, in roles of leadership!

“With a pure mind and an honest heart, there is nothing to fear!”

The key here is to be true to yourself at all times. That is when your response to people and situations would be at its best. The greatest negotiators of the world are children, who are naturally spontaneous. If you closely watch them, you would quickly learn to say no, if need be and yet strike a great chord with people and situations. Even when we date back to learnings from our epics, Lord Krishna is known to be the greatest negotiator with timeless wisdom.

Only by learning to say ‘no’, can you focus on the outcomes that really matter!

The art of saying ‘no’ with a ‘yes’ mind

The first step is to be a good listener

Listen to understand, not to reply. Listening not just to words, but also to feelings and expressions brings coherence between the head and heart. That would give you a better perspective of the situation.

Be polite in your communication

The whispers of your heart are always heard. An assertive, yet polite remark would mean that your ‘no’ is to the request and not to the person. That would ensure that the listener is receptive to your response and more open to negotiations.

An assertive, yet polite remark would mean that your ‘no’ is to the request and not to the person.

For instance, when your boss insists that you stay late to finish a report, acknowledge the request, but propose solutions for completing the work keeping your priorities in mind.

Believe in yourself and stand resolute

You are in charge. Mahatma Gandhi said, “A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble”. By setting your own standards, you will feel free and relaxed. Positive energy increases, which helps productivity and creativity.

Also, being clear about priorities helps in easy decision-making and communicating the same to stakeholders.

Have an open mind

Know that the request is put forth for a reason. There are other ways of saying a yes. Closely examine and prioritize what works best in the situation for yourself and those involved. When genuine, reframe the request, negotiating on timelines or scope of work. Offer an alternate solution and give your best to help resolve.

Ultimately, practice being in a ‘YES’ state of mind all the time. That actually means thinking positively and seeing through with wisdom.

In a world desperately needing authenticity, we all need to strive to be true to ourselves and to those around us. When the mind is devoid of all past impressions, perceptions, fallacies and dwells in the present moment, it abounds in positivity. Meditation is a practice that helps one remain grounded in optimism and confidence. And maintaining equanimity, whether it’s a yes or no!

Written by Haripriya Vasudevan & based on talks by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Learn Sudarshan Kriya - the world's most powerful breathing technique