As lawyers, whether we are dealing with opposing parties, clients, or colleagues, we are often faced with having to say no at some point.  Viewed as a negative response, the effect of saying no often leads to damaged or strained relationships.

As such, it was with great delight that I was able to attend a recent CPD program by Martin Latz (founder of the Latz Negotiation Institute), titled, How to Say No and Preserve the Relationship.

Below is a brief overview of the rules that Mr. Latz espouses:

Rule #1 – Information is Key – at the outset it is important to determine your goals and then develop an information bargaining strategy.  Ways to get and share information should be considered.  Obtaining information is key before providing any response.

Rule #2 – Understand the Meaning of No – before saying no, Mr. Latz suggests that you consider the best alternative to a negotiated agreement.  Referred to as ‘BATNA’, this is widely used in negotiation theory to think about what your plan B is.  Mr. Latz further suggests that, at this time, steps should be taken to strengthen this plan.

Rule #3 – Explain your No with Fair Objective Criteria – if you are going to say no, explain why.  This should be based on fair and objective criteria such as market-value, precedent, professional standards, or tradition.

Rule #4 – Combine your No with a ‘Yesable’ Offer – Mr. Latz suggest that you design an offer-concession strategy.  Considerations should be had to the timing of making such an offer.

Rule #5 – Control the Setting – if you are going to say no, consider the importance of the setting on the relationship.  For instance, there may be value in having a face to face discussion as opposed to over the telephone.

Of course, this is just an overview of the issues Mr. Latz discussed.  I encourage you to visit Mr. Latz’s website at for more information.

Noah Weisberg

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