Okay, I don’t mean “going negative” like some kind of mud-slinging political operative.
The truth is, I wanted to title this post “Getting to No—the best place to start.” But “no” is what the search engine optimization folks call a “stop word.” It is, you should pardon the expression, a no-no. Apparently search engines prefer positivity. As do we all.
But going negative, even briefly, turns out to be a great negotiating technique. I learned this from James Altucher’s podcast interview with Chris Voss, who wrote a book I may have to read called Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it.
In negotiations, Voss says, people expect that you want them to say yes. So go for a “no” instead. That will throw them off balance, and that gives you the upper hand. “Do you want me to leave the organization?” “Do you want to spend the rest of our marriage hating each other?”
The positives of “Going Negative”
It’s a brilliant negotiation technique. And as I listened, I wondered if we can use the same technique in speeches.
Not just to throw the audience off-balance—because when you’re off-balance, you pay closer attention to things. And what speaker doesn’t want the audience paying closer attention?
But also because it’s a way to bond with the audience: “Do you want this project to fail?”
They think, No!
I do foresee one problem, though; my clients generally resist going negative. Even if they’ve got something disastrous to talk about, they want to put a happy face on it.
I suppose I could use my newfound negotiation skills to talk them into it. (Voss’s book just moved to the top of my must-read pile.)
“Do you want this speech to tank?”
Who would say “yes” to that?