June 5, 2009

Positivity often takes some time and patience

Two things I have written about in the past are very much two sides of the same coin. I am talking about the solution-focused principle of viewing resistance as cooperation and William Ury's positive No technique.

The positive No is based on the idea that beneath your No is an underlying Yes. This underlying Yes consists of things that are important to you, like you interests, values, principles etc. The technique of the positive No is that you don't start your communication with your blunt No but you first describe your core interests and values positively and then explain your No. In this post you can find a simple example: positive No case example. As the example shows, after your No you come up with a second yes which is an alternative suggestion to the person you have just said No to.

Viewing resistance as cooperation is a way of dealing constructively with what looks like negative behavior by others. With this technique you work from the assumption that what looks like resistance by clients, customers, etc, can often better be seen as an unhandy attempt to cooperate with you. No matter how clumsy or unfriendly a client sometimes expresses him self, viewing his behavior as an attempt to cooperate can be very helpful. It is your task to try to figure out how the client wants to help you. You can do this by asking questions aimed at finding out what positive intentions, ideas or values are behind the negative words he used. By doing this, chances are, the other person will feel he is taken seriously and will step by step manage to find more positive words to describe what he meant.

These two techniques often work amazingly well. They share that you communicate in ways which help the person you’re talking with to see the positive side more easily. With the positive No technique you do this by communicating in such a way that you own positive intentions are made explicit. With the view resistance as cooperation technique you do this by helping the other person to find and express his own underlying positive words.

As I hope to have demonstrated, these techniques are really two sides of the same coin. They share the insight that it is often easier to express things which are important to you in negative terms and that it often takes it bit more thought and time to express them in positive terms. A good way of dealing with this phenomenon is to help ourselves and others to take the time and patience to find those positive words.

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