Just Say No.
No. Two letters. Takes about a 10th of a second to say it. (and no, I didn’t time that). Such a simple thing. Most children actually learn to say no before they learn to say yes. So why do we have such a hard time with it?
Make no mistake. I don’t. In fact, I’m better at “no” than just about anyone I know. I don’t know why. Many years ago I think I just figured out that it was easier to say no then to try any of the other strategies our culture has spawned to take its place.
“Want to go to the polka night at Accordion Dave’s?”
“Can I think about it and call you later?”
“I’ve been thinking about it and I would love to join you in your business!”
“Wow ... that’s a great idea. I just need to figure out how to fit you in.”
“I know you charge $5,000 for this, let’s just settle on $3500 and be done with it.”
“Uh, well, I mean, that’s hard, but, uh ... well, ok.”
“Did you like my display of bed bug art?”
“Yes! So much! I really thought it was amazing.”
It’s true, right? Funny how many permutations “no” can take, from basic delaying tactics to flat out yeses. I just think “no” is easier. I don’t have to think about how I’m going to get out of accordion night later on. I don’t have to fret about how to let this poor person who has no ability to be in my business but who thinks it would be fun down. I don’t regret selling my services for less than they’re worth.
The problem is that in our present culture, for some reason we have decided that saying no to someone is mean. Frankly, I think saying yes and meaning no is meaner. How much does it hurt the bed bug artist to find out that you hung their original artwork on the back of your storage unit?
Try it. Take a moment. Take a deep breath. Form the word in your mind. Now, slowly and quietly so no one can hear you, say it. “No.” Do it again. Ah. Don't you feel better?
My friends know that when I say yes I mean yes and when I say no I mean no. It’s nice. They don’t have to guess. They’re used to it. I think, like good fences make good neighbors, that good noes make good friendships.
In business sometimes it’s harder. If you say no they may go away. They may. But is that really such a bad thing?
In conversations I hear a lot of people actually talk themselves into yeses from what would have been firm noes. (and then complaining about it later). This is because we so fear hurting the person asking that we start out our no with a long "yesy" preamble.
“Gosh, accordion night sounds so great! That’s so cool that you do that. That would be such fun.” These are all phrases we like to put in front of our noes to soften the blow. But when the asker interrupts us and says, “Wow, I’ve been looking for someone else who likes the accordion,” and stares longingly into your eyes, well, you’re off to hear three uninterrupted hours of polka.
It is much easier to make your first phrase your no phrase and you can actually do it without being insulting. “You know what, I’ve never really liked either polka or the accordion and i think you’d have way more fun being there with someone who does.”
“Gosh, I’d love to do $3500 for you but I simply can’t. The work that goes into what you’re asking for breaks out at $5000 for me and when I do projects at a discount I always resent it in the process.”
“Whatever possessed you to make bedbugs your medium? I think it’s awesome that you’re doing your own thing and I’d love to see it out of curiosity, but I can promise you that it will give me the creeps.”
Next time someone asks you one of those questions that instantly brings the cold fear of no-ness into your bones try just saying no. You might surprise yourself. It’s easier than you think.