Yes is a very tricky concept, especially when put it into the negotiation context. First of all, there are 3 types of “yes” – Confirmation, Commitment & Counterfeit – (the 3 ways to “C” yes) as it were. Now while we do not ever advocate aiming for a “yes” or trying to force agreement through “yes”, there will be times when you have to deal with it. Here are the two major ways to handle “yes”.
1. The Rule of 3
What we refer to as The Rule of 3 really has to do with making sure the person you got the “yes” from will actually follow-through. Essentially affirming that this isn’t an “I’ll try” in disguise or a slippery way for them to put the present issue off to the side for a long while. Is this a “yes” I can work with or are they trying to end the conversation. In fact, there is a section on The Rule of 3 in Chapter 8 of Chris’s book “Never Split the Difference”.
The Rule of 3 is getting someone to agree to the same thing three times in the same conversation. Not only will the progression alert you to which type of “yes” you are faced with, but based on the rules of human nature reaction people are basically shackled to actually following through because they said they would 3 times. When I first learned this skill my biggest fear was how could I execute this without sounding like a broken record or coming off as being really pushy. Well the answer to that problem and execution of this skill comes from coupling several skills together. As you practice this you will find your own way, but here is a simple example to get you started. The first time they agree to something or give you “yes”, that is #1. Next use a label along the lines of “It sounds like what you want/what you agreed to is X. Their answer to that label is #2. Last, paraphrase what they said – “Please forgive me, I want to make sure I have this right…etc.” – the counterpart’s response to that is #3. You have just executed The Rule of 3.
2. Follow-up with “What? & “How?”
The second option for testing a “yes” is with “what” and “how” questions. Clearly we love calibrated questions and there are many uses for them. Any question can be transformed into “what” or “how” without too much trouble. Regarding testing “yes”, the “what”/”how” questions are best used for implementation. Simply put because liars can’t implement. This idea is also in line for what it takes to give someone the illusion of control. People feel in control when they are coming up with the ideas for execution. If you put the onus on them for what the implementation looks like, they will not only feel in control but will be emotionally tied to the decision. If you are getting a “yes” because you are dealing with a liar, a calibrated question will be something they could never answer because liars have no intention of executing. Some good examples: How does this fit? What do we do if we get off track? What will you need to make that happen?