Never take Yes for an answer!

nicolas clément Published by Nicolas Clément – 28 March 2024

Instead, navigate the negotiation fog to get what you want.

Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, coined the phrase “The Fog of War” to describe the incredible complexity of armed conflict.

While negotiation could be said to be the antidote to war, there is still incredible complexity to address when the stakes are high. Hence the phrase, the fog of negotiation.

In this first blog article we will address 10 elements of complexity.

  1. When does a negotiation begin?
  2. Compromise, the negotiation credit card.
  3. The most dangerous negotiation
  4. Yes means danger
  5. No is the way to yes
  6. Shake the coconut tree
  7. Monsters under the bed
  8. Stop controlling the uncontrollable
  9. Feel good at your own peril
  10. The perfect flight plan for foggy conditions


  • Do not accept yeses which are forced on you.
  • Do not accept yeses you have forced on others.
  • Yes, or the hope for yes, creates a fog which disorientates you.
  • You must navigate through the fog to go to destination with a proper flight plan, compass, checklists, logs, and reflexes.
  • Believe your instruments, keep emotions under control, and fly the plane!

1. When does a negotiation begin?

  • Negotiation definition: negotiation is a mutual effort between two or more parties to solve a problem or reach an agreement with all parties having the right to say No (Jim Camp).
  • No is a decision.
  • Negotiations starts with asking someone to make a decision.
  • Negotiations start with No.

2. Compromise, the negotiation credit card

  • Every negotiation has a price which can be measured in hard or emotional currency.
  • Pay it forward to maximize your long term outcomes (build the deal, don’t buy it.)
  • Compromise = buy now, pay later (with interest = compounded consequences of a bad deal.)
  • Delay negotiation gratification (don’t be a deal addict.)

3. The most dangerous negotiation 

  • Everybody is somebody’s somebody (Stefan Schiffman.)
  • There is always a negotiation behind the negotiation.
  • The most dangerous negotiation is the one you are not seeing.
  • Ask yourself: what am I not seeing?

4. Yes means danger

  • You drop your guard.
  • Most yeses are fake, whether intentionally or not.
  • Did they really say yes? (happy ears syndrome, confirmation bias)
  • “How” to tell a real yes from a fake one (notice it is a dot, not a question mark.)

5. No is the way to yes

  • No clarifies everything.
  • Don’t fear hearing No, don’t fear saying No.
  • Negotiation is not mediation (THEY are responsible to say No to you.)
  • Escape the swamp of maybe (and its swamp thing: hope.)

6. Shake the coconut tree

  • Get that pendulum to move (Newton’s 3rd law of motion.)
  • Use reverse negative negotiation.
  • Build cognitive dissonance with questions.
  • Never help them answer.

7. Monsters under the bed

  • Tackle the biggest problems now.
  • Emotions eat reason for breakfast.
  • Switch on the light (and you will see there is no monster.)
  • Use the SCORE method: Situation, Causes, Objectives, resources, Effects.

8. Stop controlling the uncontrollable

  • Don’t let your obsession with results ruin your focus on preparation.
  • Don’t les your need to please ruin your focus on execution.
  • In negotiation, you can’t control the past, time, people, or places.
  • You can and must control what you say, how you say it, and what you do.

9. Feel good at your own peril 

  • The Columbo effect: people who feel good always make mistakes when the stakes are high.
  • Avoid negotiation feelgood clichés which lead you faster to the edge of the cliff.
  • Break the(ir) record, don’t fall asleep to any negotiation lullaby.
  • Avoid the harmony trap (be nice, or else.)

10. The perfect flight for foggy conditions

  • Why negotiate – why them – why us – why now – why not.
  • Prepare your negotiation flight with checklists.
  • Fly the plane: execute!
  • Debrief with negotiation logs.

  • Logo linkedin