When it comes to navigating a high-stakes conversation (in business OR in life), there are five elements that both seasoned and aspiring negotiation-ninjas MUST have in their back pocket.
Water, Fire, Earth, and Metal are the four we looked at last week, and how each of them can be called upon in conversation to build shared vision and trust with your audience.
Collectively, their function is to keep the conversation open and advancing, and to inspire the audience to give you all the information you need to frame your "ask" or offer.
The 5th element, however, serves a different purpose.
Wood is what you call on when it comes time to close the loop, and cut straight to the bottom line.
Once you've employed the first four elements, you will arrive at the point in the conversation when it's time to decide: are they in, or are they out?
Wood is the element that represents giving them a choice.
And by the end, what this often boils down to is the choice between two options:
It's either a YES, or it's a NO.
Trouble is, we don't tend to value these two answers equally.
In fact, we tend to be super attached to the YES, and deeply averse to the NO.
Why? Because NO is what we heard when we didn't get what we wanted; when we felt rejected, abandoned, or not enough. All our past conditioning has taught us to fear the word NO, and so we can't help but perceive it as a personal rejection of all that we are and all that we stand for.
Especially if what's being rejected is the professional service that we so lovingly, painstakingly, poured ourselves into.
So rather than ask for a decision, what do we do instead? We do all the work of making magic and get to the end and say:
"So, think about it... and let me know."
And then we sit and twiddle our thumbs for days or weeks until we gradually realize that the magic that existed inside that conversation has now thoroughly dissipated, that the line has gone totally cold, that youmissed the opportunity.
And few feelings are worse, than that of a missed opportunity.
Of course, it is true that people do need time to think things over (especially if you're asking for a big commitment). But the question is:
How long are YOU willing to wait around, while they figure it out?
How many more opportunities are you willing to miss, because you were afraid of hearing "no"?
When you let a decision-maker off the hook without giving you a YES or a NO; when you let them get away with NOT making a decision; you do a disservice to everyone involved.
But worst of all, when you fail to hold the other person accountable for their decision -- regardless of what the decision is -- you set yourself up to waste your energy "following up" in vain, trying to re-inflate a limp balloon after all the helium has escaped.
So I offer you the same insight that one of my brilliant mentors said to me years ago:
"If you want to be in business for yourself, you have to learn to not take rejection personally."
Few pieces of advice will be so invaluable, not only in business -- but in life!
Because when you stop taking "NO" personally... and instead get curious about what's coming up for them... you might just realize that it's not what you assumed.
... And this is where the fun REALLY begins.
This week, I invite you to try this next thought on for size as you summon the courage you'll need to cut to the chase and give them the wood:
"It's either a YES, or it's a NO; and either answer is ok."