Overcoming Fear of Negotiation by Going For the ‘No’

Why do so many women break out in a sweat at the idea of having to negotiate on their own behalf for something they want? What holds them back from being the incredibly effective negotiators they could be? Is it that women can’t negotiate well? No. We debunked that myth in last week’s blog.

In fact, examining the necessary skillset for top negotiators reveals that women are arguably better equipped than their male counterparts to excel in negotiations. So why the resistance?

Other than the obvious social conditioning and limiting beliefs (which we touched on in our inaugural Art of Feminine Negotiation blog),
I’m going to go out on a limb and posit that it’s our fear of rejection, of getting a ‘no’. Studies confirm that women are less likely to ask for what they want than men. Where does that come from? What happened to our childhood ability to pester the heck out of our parents to get what we want? As kids, we seemed less afraid of the word ‘no’. Less afraid of failure. As kids we got the message that if we were persistent enough, we’d get what we want. But somewhere along the line that got beaten out of us and we became afraid of rejection, of those ‘no’s’.  It turns out that perhaps our instincts as kids were better on this front.

Let’s explore the concept of failure for a moment. Thomas Edison ‘failed’ at creating the light bulb countless times before succeeding. In fact, it was only through those failures, and his persistence and willingness to fail that he achieved success. Is he known for the purported failures? No. He’s lauded as a genius. Similarly, Abraham Lincoln purportedly failed twice in business, and lost 8 out of 10 elections before becoming President of the United States. Do people remember Lincoln for those failures? No. He’s credited with abolishing slavery and
considered by many to be the most influential U.S President in history. What if the women suffragists had given up fighting for the right to vote after being told ‘no’? What if abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and the countless other brave women who fought against slavery had given up when told ‘no’?  You get the idea.

What if your fear of failure, of rejection, of hearing the word ‘no’ is the very thing standing between you and your best self? Between you and your kick-ass negotiator? Between you and getting what you deserve – from the boardroom to the bedroom? Perhaps what you need is a simple mindset shift. What if you take one of your age-old childhood adages and modify it to fit your needs today. Try on “sticks and stones may break my bones but ‘no’ can never hurt me”. Recognize that your failures are the bricks on the way to success. In fact, the only way to success is typically through failure. It’s through your failures that you learn, improve, grow and ultimately succeed. Maybe you just need to be willing to fail better.

If you accept that fear of hearing‘no’ is a factor contributing to women’s resistance to embracing negotiation,and we know that the best way to desensitize ourselves to the word is to get used to it, then how might we achieve that? How might you experience it so often that it loses its power over you? It’s said that if you do the thing you fear, the fear will go away. If that’s the case, it makes imminent sense that you take active steps to numb yourself to the word ‘no’.

No doubt exposing yourself to receiving more ‘no’s in your life requires you to get outside your comfort zone. I was reminded of the limiting effects of comfort zones on a beach recently when I became entranced watching a hermit crab by my chair. It would pop up from its hole in the sand and skitter a few inches to the side, then stop. But as soon as each wave started toward shore the hermit crab scurried back to cower in its bunker, even though the waves never once came up to its hiding spot. I watched that poor little crab for ages and it never ventured more than a foot away from its hole. I could feel its desire. But I also felt its fear outweigh that desire over and over again. It made me realize that we lull ourselves into believing that our comfort zones are safe, when in reality they are self-imposed prisons. Those comfort zones will shrink and eventually suffocate us if we don’t venture outside them and risk living.  Do you want to live your life playing safe in a little comfort zone that never stretches your boundaries, that gets smaller and smaller so you can never be the biggest, best possible version of yourself?

So what if, instead, you made a commitment today to step outside your comfort zone? Are you open to the possibility of welcoming failure as a way to take you to the next level? To condition yourself to learn to hear ‘no’? What if, instead of avoiding rejection, you committed to seek rejection? What if, in thinking about failure,rejection, and ‘no’, you opted to turn the paradigm on its head and instead of fearing it, you looked forward to it as a source of empowerment? How? The answer is so simple it’s brilliant in its simplicity. Ask. Ask. Ask. Pick practice areas in your life where you’re willing to trial asking for what you want. And here’s the key. Don’t be tied or attached to getting a ‘yes’. In fact, as proposed by Andrea Waltz and Richard Fenton in their bestselling book,Go For No, instead of going for‘yes’, actively go for ‘no’. Embrace the possibility of multiple rejections and set your targets for how many ‘no’ answers you need to get the number of ‘yes’answers you want.  

By way of simple example, if you want 10 new clients this week (or donations to a cause or whatever you may be seeking) and you know that you’re likely to only get 10% of those you canvas to say ‘yes’, then don’t set your sights on achieving 10 yeses, but rather, flip that thought process on its head and set your goal to get 100 ‘no’s. That way,even as you get some ‘yeses’, you don’t slow down. You keep going for the‘no’s. And when you hit the ‘no’s (as you invariably will), it won’t stop you –you won’t see it as failure because you’re going for those ‘no’s. In addition to desensitizing yourself to the ‘no’s, think how much more likely you are to hit a higher level. Better yet, you’ll lose all the angst and wasted negative energy that comes from being afraid of the rejection, afraid of the ‘no’s. Go for the no. It’s liberating. Such a simple concept and such a powerful tool to be able to get through that fear of failure to the fabulous success that’s waiting for you on the other side.

Are you willing to put yourself out there and go for that ‘no’? To push past that fear of failure? Push past that fear of getting a ‘no’, knowing that your success lies on the other side of it.Once you desensitize yourself to hearing ‘no’ and rid yourself of that fear, look out world … you’ll be ready to level up to step into your feminine power as the formidable negotiator you’re ready to be.


confidence, credibility, intention, Negotiation, Women and the Art of Negotiation

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