A former FBI hostage negotiator explains why you want people to tell you 'no' in a negotiation

CoworkersSebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr‘No’ isn’t necessarily a bad word.

Obviously, you want a negotiation to end with the other person agreeing to give you everything you want.

So obviously, the path to that ultimate “yes” is having them agree to little things along the way — right?

Not quite.

According to Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator and author of the new book, “Never Split the Difference,” the route to “yes” is in fact paved with “no.”

Voss spent years dealing with terrorists and criminals, and his new book is filled with insights that apply to everyday negotiations.

When he visited the Business Insider offices in May, Voss explained that one of the biggest negotiation mistakes you can possibly make — whether talking to your spouse, your boss, or your car salesman — is becoming a “hostage to yes.”

In other words, if the only answer you’ll accept is “yes,” you could miss out on a lot of opportunities to influence and persuade your opponent.

When people say “no,” “they have a tendency to relax,” Voss said. “They have a tendency to actually be more open to other questions. So when you wrap your mind around that, you can actually use ‘no’ to your advantage.”

Here’s how that might work in real life:

Say you’re negotiating the terms of a new job. As it stands currently, you’ll be underpaid, you’ll be working from a bad location, and you won’t have a lot of authority.

Voss recommends asking the hiring manager (or whoever else is involved in the negotiation): “Do you want me to fail?”

“That answer’s clearly a ‘no,'” Voss said. “And now we have to talk about what the terms are that are necessary for success.”

He added: “You’d be stunned at what people are willing to say ‘no’ to. So questions like that can make a very big difference.”

Sure, this subtle strategy takes more patience than asking a question that draws an immediate “yes.” But it could potentially get you closer to where you want to be in the long run — surprising both you and your negotiation partner.

NOW WATCH: This is the one thing that sets Donald Trump apart from other negotiators

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.