You Can Tell Me "No"

“You can tell me ‘No’.”

This is a very powerful statement.  Especially if this permission is given honestly and with full intention of honoring any “no” that comes from it.

Why?   Well, many people are culturally geared to avoid the word.  So much so that they would rather lie to you than say “no.”  For example:

“FEEL GOOD” COMMENT:  “We might be interested in your product.  Send me a brochure and we’ll think it over.” 

TRANSLATION:  “I am not interested and don’t have the guts to tell you because you might think poorly of me or think I’m rude.  Instead I am going to waste your literature and your time.”

“FEEL GOOD” COMMENT:  “I can’t go to dinner with you.  I have to wash my hair.”

TRANSLATION:  “No, I won’t go out with you but won’t tell you that to your face even though we both know I’m probably lying to you now.”

“FEEL GOOD” COMMENT:  “Let’s do lunch sometime.”

TRANSLATION:  “This sounds nice but as you can see I am making no commitment to you in any way and you’ll likely not hear back from me.”

“FEEL GOOD” COMMENT:  “Thank you for sending the proposal I requested.  I’m not authorized to decide this and will pass it along.”

TRANSLATION:  “I’m not going to buy from you and I’m not brave enough to say ‘no” after I asked you to do all this work.  So, I’m going to pretend it is not my decision and make it appear it is not my fault.”

Since this type of false answer is almost ingrained in social norms, how do you get past it?  Give permission.

Giving permission to say “no” not only gets to a solution quicker, it can also take off some of the pressure that can create a “no.”  By reliving pressure, others may acutally be more comfortable giving a “yes.”  And if “no” is the real answer, the sooner you know, the sooner you can move on to something more productive and quit wasting your time on a dead-end!

Here are three examples of how to use permission to say “no”…

“I’d like to talk candidly about your budget for this project. Can we do that?  You can tell me ‘No’ if this makes you uncomfortable.”

“If I can deliver by the end of the month and for 10% less than you are paying now, would you order this week?  You can tell me ‘No.’  It won’t hurt my feelings.”

“I would like to recommend the XYZ package of services.  It may cost a little more but is is the best value and will save you money in the long run.  Would you like to buy that package?   It’s okay to tell me ‘no’ if you don’t agree. Really.

If you give permission to say “no” with sincerity and you genuinely accept the “no” when it is given, you’ll find you will increase your value as a trusted advisor.  You’ve given permission and accepted the outcome.

You will also find people suprised by the lack of pressure from this type of discussion.  Many times they will let your discussions continue because you have honored the “no.”   And that leads to more productive discussions, more sales and more agreements!



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.