Why to Get a "No!"

Why to Get a “No!”

Time is very valuable.  The government cannot issue us “bailout” time when we run short.   One way to have more time is to get to “No!” faster.

Huh?  You don’t want to hear “No!”

I admit, most of us grew up with the word “No” as a negative.

  • “No, don’t touch that,”
  • “No entry,”
  • “No I don’t want to go out with you,”
  • “No, you didn’t make the team.”

However, if you can overcome what I call the “No Stereotype” I believe you can be more efficient and generally happier too!

Okay, consider a few instances of “why” and when we want to hear “No.”

* It is clear the deal is not going to happen, no matter what efforts you make.  The faster the “No”, the sooner you can move on to more productive things.  (And if the deal is not good for most or all parties, the longer it stretches out the greater the risk of reputation damage to each party!)

* Your pre-sale phone calls and emails go ignored over several weeks.  Has this become a wild goose chase with an uncooperative goose?   Was the goose even really interested to begin with or did we just selectively hope so?

* “No” is not necessarily permanent, just a closure point on the current efforts.  If done right, a respectful and clear “No” will leave the door open for possible future business.  Being a pest may permanently kill all future opportunity.

* “No” shows you understand boundaries.  A respectful, courteous “No” may earn you respect that bad or very open endings will not.

* Since “No” is only personal if we accept it as personal, choosing to accept “No” simply as a milestone in your work (or life) does not have to be unpleasant. Disappointing sometimes, a relief other times but closure most of the time!  Now that’s not a bad thing, is it?

Now, a few ways on “How” to get to a “No!” (appropriately of course):

* Give permission“This is the best deal I can offer. I hope you will consider it. You are also welcome to tell me ‘No.'”  This takes the pressure off and can even make the other party more candid and open.   Maybe they say “No.”  Okay, move on.  Maybe instead of “No” they ask a new question or raise a new concern.  Great!  A chance to take a positive step.

By sincerely granting permission, you are not pushing too hard (and no one likes to be pushed).

* Give permission… Part 2.  “I see your view point on this and I hope you see mine.  However, it seems clear that we are both in a position where pursuing this further will not lead to the mutual success we both need.  You are welcome to tell me I’m wrong.”   They will likely agree and you all move on OR offer a reason to continue moving forward.  Either option is great!

* Give your own “No.”  If your once hot lead won’t answer calls or emails, send them a letter (emails are too easy to ignore or delete) that says you’ve tried several times to follow-up and you don’t want to be a pest.  You welcome an opportunity to discuss the project but since you have not received a response you will consider the current opportunity over.  If they do find interest again, you hope they will contact you.  In other words, be a professional, not a stray puppy.

* Give your own “No”… Part 2.  When you are sure you have no interest in a proposal, project or offer.  Be an adult.  Politely tell the other party a clear “No.”   They may argue, want to debate, or try to string you along and “wear you down.”   In response, you may want to say nice things that really are not true just to avoid saying the word no (or to avoid the debate).  Things like, “Well, send me a proposal and we’ll look it over, ” or, “I have not  had time to read your letter.  I’ll call you back if we are interested.”  Now sometimes these are true… but don’t say them to avoid a “No.”

Now, I hear many professionals say all the cliches about “No” that, honestly, I’m not that sold on.  These include:

  • A “No” is the next step to a “Yes.”
  • Each “No” gets me one step closer to “Yes!”
  • “No” just means we have to try harder.

There are plenty of others too.  There is some truth in them.  But I think most of these are just designed to motivate those that are uncomfortable with the concept of “No” and use these as a cushion.  I submit that accepting the appropriate value of “No” is healthier and more efficient.

And I want to be clear, I am in no way suggesting you push “No” as an answer when it is not appropriate.  Learning to communicate better with others will help you get a feel of when to seek out a “No” and when to avoid it.   And you will mess up a few times, but hey, you’ll do that anyway on other approaches that may waste far more time.



About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.