The title isn't a cute play on words. This book really does reveal how to say "no" in a positive way. Some people think saying no is negative behavior, without recognizing the reality that failing to saying no (when you should) can do immense harm. Some people think that getting your way ("winning") is what matters, and they render their "no" in a way that diminishes their own position and everyone involved.
The first view is disrespectful to yourself and dishonest toward the other person. The latter is disrespectful to the other person and dishonest toward yourself. Neither view takes into consideration that two parties have their own needs and agendas to meet. When one side loses, both lose.
A third way, which Ury reveals, is honest and respectful to both parties. Consequently, it leads to a positive outcome for both parties. Sometimes, it's a matter of leaving a door open. You may have worked with someone who quit and came back several times over the course of many years--how did that person manage to say no to your employer and yet leave the door open to being rehired later? A "no" doesn't need to inflict negative results--it can provide positive results. How that happens is the subject of this book, and Ury provides many examples to show how this works.
In fact, one example from this book was a verbatim suggestion given to me by a business associate just last year. In a pre-sale message, we needed to tell a customer no to some features he wanted. I had sent my associate my planned reply, and she came back with a suggestion--it was a softener to the no, one that left the door open without tying us down. The customer was delighted with my modified reply, and I closed the sale. After the sale, I compared both replies and saw that my original, while not patently offensive, didn't leave the door open and could easily have left the customer feeling cold.
Recognizing these kinds of gems in this book helped reinforce to me the credibility of the author. Yes, he already came with plenty of high-end credentials, as a quick online search on "William Ury" reveals. But what really grabbed me was the substance of the book. Here's a subject we all have to deal with, on various levels, but we find it so hard and so frustrating to get it right. We find ourselves constantly choosing between saying yes to have harmony and saying no to protect our interests. But we don't need to be in that position. It's not an either/or choice.
You can say no to someone's (offer, demand, viewpoint, preference, plans) in a way that leaves that other person feeling better for the exchange, and thus enhances the relationship. You can refuse a customer's demands and not lose the sale or watch future sales evaporate. You can tell your spouse no (to that golf outing, new car, cruise) and not start a fight. You can tell your child no to going to (name the place) without getting an argument or temper tantrum in return. You can tell your boss no to yet another (assignment, transfer, trip, seminar) without sinking your career advancement. How you say no allows you to do these things. And that is what Ury addresses from his years of experience in negotiations.
As I read through this book, time and again I found myself nodding, "Yes, that's exactly right." Other times, I found myself thinking, "So, that's how I should have handled (name the circumstance)!" or "I can see how this works better than the way I normally do it."
Many times, I have said no to someone or disagreed with someone, only to be surprised that the other person is offended. I may have said, "This is wrong," but the other person heard, "You are wrong." You can say no to the proposal without saying no to the person. Yury explains how to do this.
It's a powerful skill, and not just in business. For example, have you fought with a friend or family member over something trivial? Or, flipping that around, have you bought into the "go along to get along" concept, only to fume later?
The process of providing another person with a positive no has three stages: preparation, delivery, and follow-through. The book is divided into three Parts, each of which deal with one of these stages. Each Part contains three chapters, bringing the subtotal to nine chapters. The final (tenth, but unnumbered) chapter concludes the book by explaining the marriage of yes and no.
This book is a winner. If you practice its principles, both you and the recipient of your "no" will feel like--and be--winners, too. I must caution you, this book does not provide some simplistic formula or magic words to utter. It takes time to master the concepts and apply them correctly. Ury provides plenty of examples to show that doing so is well worth the effort.