How to Turn a No Into a Yes: 3 Phrases You Should Use

November 12, 2018

How to turn a no into a yes – the exact words you should say.

The ability to persuade people can feel like a super power.

In fact, it’s often portrayed that way. The coolest part about Star Wars was that Obi-Wan Kenobi could command people with The Force. Hypnotists wow audiences by getting people to do outrageous stunts.

And yet, persuasion isn’t some fanciful ability held by telepaths and oracles. The reality – it’s a skill that can be learned, like any other.

Of course, you can’t convince anybody of anything. But, you can often turn a definite no into a potential yes by being wise with your words.

In her LinkedIn Learning course Preparing for Successful Communication, Communication Strategist and LinkedIn Learning Instructor Sam Horn explains exactly how to do that.

Learn how to turn a no into a yes from Communication Strategist and LinkedIn Learning Instructor Sam Horn.

How to Turn a No into a Yes: 3 Guidelines to Follow

In her course on communication, Horn said there are guidelines to follow to turn a no into a yes. They are:

    1. Anticipate Why Someone Might Say No. And Start With That.

Often, you can probably guess the biggest reason someone will say no to your idea.

For example, maybe you are seeking an additional resource, but you know your boss will be hesitant to cut the check. Or, something similar was tried in the past and didn’t work, so you think your leadership team won’t approve it this time around.

Rather than try to avoid the biggest objection, lead with it. Make it the first thing you say – and why you still think it’s a good idea.

“If you don't voice people's objections, they won't be listening,” Horn said. “They'll be waiting for their turn to talk so they can tell you why this won't work.”

    2. Use the Word “And”, Not “But".

The key to turning a no into a yes is to avoid a confrontation or argument. Instead, you want to present yourself as being on the same side as the person you are looking to convince – and your word choice can influence that.

This is a perfect example of that. Don’t use the word “but” in your pitch; use “and.”

“The word ‘but’ creates conflict,” Horn said. “The word ‘and’ creates cooperation.”

    3. State What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t Do.

Similar to the last point, you want to build comradery with the person you are trying to convince, not animosity.

The word “can’t” builds the latter. Saying something "can’t" be done usually inspires the other person to think of all the ways it indeed can be done.

Instead, state only what you can do. Again, this builds a more collaborative environment, and generally makes the other person more receptive to your idea.

Two Examples of What This Looks Like in Practice

Here are two examples of using the three guidelines mentioned above in a pitch to turn a no into a yes:

  • You are suggesting a costly new program: “You may be thinking, 'we don't have enough money'. If I can have a few moments of your time, I'll point out where we can find that money and make it back in the first three months.”
  • You are suggesting a new membership program to your board, when a membership program failed the year before: “You may be thinking, 'we tried this before and it didn't work'. You're right, and I've identified where we went wrong last time and how we can prevent that from happening this time.”

Both of those can turn a surefire no into a potential yes – just by being smart with the words you use.

Want to learn more? Watch Horn’s full LinkedIn Learning course, Preparing for Successful Communication.

Other videos within that course cover: