Saying “No” Without Ruining the Relationship

By | April 30, 2014

mentoringLet’s face it, the word no can stop a conversation dead in its tracks. But it’s important to have a strategy for sticking to your no without jeopardizing the relationship.

According to William Ury, Ph.D., co-founder of Harvard University’s Program on Negotiation and author of The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes, an approach he calls Yes! No. Yes? can be a helpful formula. Here’s how Lindsay Levine describes it on the Fast Company blog:

The First “Yes”: Let’s say a client wants to go with a lower-priced alternative, which you know will produce a substandard result. The first Yes! is the core value, need, or principle you’re trying to protect. For example, protecting the quality of the brand.

The “No” is a respectful no, saying, “To maintain our quality standards, we cannot go with the lower priced/lower quality item.”

The “Yes?” acknowledges the ongoing relationship, and sounds like, “Let’s work together to create something that works within your budget but doesn’t adversely affect the quality of the product.”

This formula might be useful for a number of scenarios, including describing treatment planning options.

Do you have a winning approach for holding your ground without jeopardizing the relationship? Leave your suggestion in the comments.

One thought on “Saying “No” Without Ruining the Relationship

  1. Dr. Sunil Ilapogue, DDS

    You have to seriously consider what your up against and if you think you are going to ruining a relationship over something then I would most likely not approach the situation. It also depends too on what type of a relationship your speaking about. Some times in business you have to say “No!” and it could hurt, but you can always find another vendor. You have to do what is best for you and the your business.


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