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Refusing To Take Yes For An Answer

April 25, 2013

“Dad, can I watch a movie?”


“Can I watch Pirates of the Caribbean? Mom said I’d be able to watch it at some point.”

“Ah. . .okay, I guess.”

“Can I stay up past my bedtime to finish it? There’s no school tomorrow.”

“Ah. . . all right. . .”

“Can I eat ice cream in the living room while I’m watching it?”

Maybe it’s just my kids who do this, but they won’t take YES for an answer. They tend to continue asking until I’ve hit the limit and finally say,

“No! You cannot eat ice cream in the living room!”

I’ve got a bunch of kids. My oldest is 23 and the youngest are 10. They’ve been following this pattern for nearly two decades. It makes me as a parent just want to tell them no earlier. After all, if I’m going to have to say no eventually, let’s just get the negativeness over with as soon as possible.

I’ve worked with these type of people as well. They are typically the ones who consider themselves expert negotiators. There’s an obscure movie called “Johnny Lingo.”
The main character in this polynesian period piece is set to bargain for a wife.

“If the girl’s father asks for two cows, Johnny will settle for one. If he asks for one cow, Johnny will settle for the hooves and the tail. He’s the best trader in the islands.”

And yet, when the time comes to negotiate, the girl’s father asks for the outrageous price of three cows! The crowd is shocked. This is far more than the expected dowry for a girl of her background.

“Three cows is many. But, not enough for Mahana. I will offer EIGHT cows.”

The obvious lesson is that something is worth what you pay for it. Mahana became the most prestigious woman on the island where worth was measured by how much their husbands paid in a dowry.

But, there’s another message. Too often negotiations become an “us vs them” struggle. When you get to the salary negotiation portion of the job offer, you are trying to get as much as possible and the employer is trying to pay as little as possible. At least that’s what we are told is the way to approach it.

I prefer instead, to approach a financial negotiation with two numbers: The minimum I will accept and the maximum I will give up. Once I hit one or the other, we’re done. So, if my minimum is $80,000/year, and the employer’s opening offer is $81,000, the negotiation is over and we have a deal.

“But Rodney,” people will say, “you’re leaving money on the table.”

Yep. If I’ve done my homework and I understand my worth to the company and the value of the position, then my numbers will represent an accurate reflection of my financial worth. And the beauty of this process is that the employer feels like she also got a good deal.

However, if my minimum is $80,000 and I’m offered $79,000, it’s really easy to say,

“I need at least $80K.”

“I’m sorry, $79,000 is as high as we can go.”

“I understand you have make decisions based on your company’s situation. I wish you luck in filling your position.”

Likewise, if I’m the employer and the most I can afford for a position is $85,000, and a candidate asks for $83,000, we’ve got a deal. If instead they say,

“Well, I really need $90,000 to make this work.”

“I’m sorry we weren’t able to reach an agreement. I wish you the best of luck in your job search.”

Of course, the process of negotiating a position involves much more than the salary and there are often other considerations that cause the salary requirements to be adjusted. In addition, salary is just one area where we negotiate.

But, the real point is that you should strive to get to the point where you take yes for an answer.

And no ice cream in the living room! Ever!

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