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Most of us have been taught that if we want others to co-operate with us, we have to compromise – to get something, we have to give something.

But there's a better way to get what you want: Start with no.

If your New Year's resolutions for 2011 include being more assertive, standing up for yourself, and achieving your goals, the "no" system can be your ticket to success.

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Here are 11 steps to get moving:

1. Start with no.

Resist the urge to compromise. Instead, invite the other person to say "no" to your proposal. (Hint: Don't tell him or her what it is – at least not yet.) And be clear that you don't take no as rejection, but as a candid start to an honest discussion.

2. Dwell not.

If you dwell on what you want, you hurt your advantage. Throughout the discussion, focus on what you can control – your actions and behaviours.

3. Do your homework.

Learn everything you can before you begin. It will prevent a minefield of surprises, whether you're dealing with the boss, a car dealer, or your teenager.

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4. Identify obstacles.

Identify everything that might come up in the negotiation that could blow up in your face. If you don't spend time doing this in advance, you'll walk into a trap.

5. "Out" the elephant.

If there's a big, unspoken problem neither of you wants to talk about, don't ignore it. Bring it into the open to clear the air and give you the upper hand.

6. Check your emotions at the door.

Exercise self-control, and let go of any expectations, fears or judgments. Whatever you do, don't be needy.

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7. Get them talking.

Ask open-ended questions that begin with 'what' and 'how.' Find out what the other person wants and needs. The one who talks most loses the advantage.

8. Be humble.

If someone wants to brag, lecture, name drop, or use big words, let it be the other guys. When they feel superior, the advantage goes to you.

9. Respect, don't befriend.

In a negotiation, being friends is not the goal. Your goal is to come to a fair agreement. Stop worrying about being liked and you'll make better decisions.

10. Don't sell.

Don't pitch or make a presentation – you're shooting yourself in the foot. Instead, let them tell you what they want. It's the best way to shape your strategy.

11. Build a vision.

Now that you know what they want, create a story that presents your proposal as the best way to solve their problem.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Jim Camp is a leading negotiating coach and author of NO: The Only Negotiating Strategy You Need for Work and Home. President and CEO of Camp Negotiation Systems, he's coached individuals, corporations and governments worldwide through hundreds of successful negotiations.

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