Janet Walkow Christine Jacobs

Getting to Yes


I’ve learned over the years that if you want or need something, you have to ask for it. If you don’t, you’ll likely be disappointed.  Without asking, you’ll have a better chance of getting it than if you didn’t ask.  While you won’t always get what you want, there are ways to improve your odds. My term for this is “getting to yes”.

Driving Me Crazy

When I finally was old enough to drive, I could hardly wait to take my first trip to the beach, which was about an hour away. I knew that my parents would resist and tell me that I didn’t have enough experience, but I’ve always been determined and plotted a way to win them over. The initial discussion went as expected. I reminded them that I had been driving with my dad for years in parking lots prior to getting my license and emphasized my track record of being responsible. Still, they weren’t ready to hand over the keys. Then, I experienced an “aha” moment. I realized this was essentially a one-sided begging session, so I instead asked them what I needed to do to prove to them I was ready. I clearly caught them off guard. Dad thought for a minute and responded that when I could change a tire successfully, I would be allowed to drive to the beach. “Let’s go.”, I said, and off we went to the driveway, where he guided me through the steps for changing a car tire. It was getting dark out by the time I finished and I had streaks of grease on me as I went back into the house. Dad handed me the keys and the next day I was off to the beach.

Working on Yes

Recently, I was talking with a friend who wants to shift her job responsibilities to focus on what she finds most interesting. Initial discussions with management weren’t particularly productive. When we talked about the situation, it was clear that what she wanted wasn’t so different than what management wanted. It ended up she wasn’t opposed to accommodating what they valued if it meant she could focus on what she preferred to do. It was an “aha” moment for her, realizing that if she assured her boss that she would continue working on what he wanted, that he would help her make the change. She had discovered a way for both she and her boss to get to yes. Voila.

Tipping Point

The tire incident was a tipping point lesson for me in how to getting to yes. If you can figure out what the other person(s) need to feel comfortable in granting your request, you have a significantly better chance of closing the deal. I’ve used this with my parents, family members, bosses and customer service folks. Seeing things through the other person’s vantage point is the best preparation for talking about with people and getting to an answer of yes.

Janet Walkow is the Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer of the Drug Dynamics Institute at The University of Texas and a co-founder of Leading Women. Read her full bio.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.