How to get an enthusiastic yes: A framework and exercise

You and I rarely have enough leverage to get something done all by ourselves.

I know, I know. Sometimes, it would be a lot easier if you could use your sheer willpower to push things through. (Believe me, I’ve tried.) But the reality is, we live in an interconnected world and we need other people's cooperation to make change happen.

Having cooperation and support from stakeholders is a game-changer. It means more momentum for your project. More confidence and speed. More energy spent doing great work you're proud of. And a lot less worrying.

Here are examples of things you might ask for:

Warm introductions: "I'd love to meet your friend from XYZ company. Could you connect me with them?"

Marketing your event: "Could you share and post on social about our upcoming event?"

Improving your employee’s quality of work: "There were lots of errors in the recent report… Could you try to be more detailed with these in the future?"

Getting a job: “I’d be a great fit for you and here’s what I can do.”

Closing a sale: "It sounds like we're aligned. Do you want to move forward with this contract?"

Notice these are all examples where the other person COULD do what you asked… Or they could ignore you (or say no directly).

This can be super frustrating because you could explain 10 great reasons why they should want to do what you asked. But they still won't be convinced to take action.

Let’s take a step back. Why do people say no? They say no because they don't see why a situation is beneficial to them. Makes sense. You wouldn’t do something if there's no upside for you. But too often, when you write or speak to other people, you are thinking of why an idea is good for you. When in fact, that is THE most important time to position why an idea is good for the other person.

The truth is, a lot of your requests–whether it's sales material, marketing material, or people management–are a bit selfish.

You aren’t trying to be selfish, not at all. It's simply that we see the world from our own point of view. We're in our own heads, looking at the world from our eyes, with lenses that shape how we filter information. Your default state is “me”-centric.

To counteract your default "me"-centric viewpoint, you have to actively practice and consciously choose to see things from the other person's point of view. Then use those insights to frame and build a case.

To increase the chances of getting a "yes," try this exercise:

  1. What part of this note mentions things that mostly benefit me?

  2. What about this benefits the other person? Do they really care about those things, or is it a thinly-veiled attempt at positioning something that’s still mainly serves me?

  3. Why would they eagerly say yes to this?

Literally go through, line by line, and highlight the parts that benefit you versus the other person. You might be surprised at how much of your note is self-serving.

If you can't think of why they would eagerly say yes, go back to the drawing board. Regroup and be glad that you caught yourself before hitting send. Luckily, you still have time to frame your idea in a way that will make the person eager to move forward. Whew!

This isn’t just a positioning exercise. This checklist of questions creates tangible value by systematically identifying and surfacing how both parties will benefit. If that value isn’t surfaced and identified, then it’s as if it didn’t exist at all. Of course, this is assuming your idea really is good for both parties. If your idea is mutually beneficial, this checklist helps you better explain why it would be good for the other person.

Right now, you probably have a situation where you are hoping for a “yes.” You can usually tell what this might be because it’s the email/text you’re procrastinating on. When we are not sure what to say, we usually delay. +1 for the rhyme.

Try the exercise and let me know how it goes for you!

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