You may not recall the first time you heard the word NO; however, that first time and the many times you heard it after all happened when you were a toddler. You continued to hear the word NO through your childhood years and eventually, it became ingrained in your psyche.
Let’s fast forward to you now as an adult. Are you comfortable saying NO to someone? It may be NO because you’re not interested in their product or service. It may be NO that you don’t want to do something, go somewhere, or any number of other reasons. For some reason we don’t like to say NO, however, we sure are good at saying things like “let me think about it,” “I’ll get back to you,” ” sounds good but I want to talk to my spouse” or ” I need to talk to the committee.” There are infinite excuses. Why are we so uncomfortable with being honest and just saying NO?
We don’t like rejection-plain and simple. Let’s look at it from a salesperson’s perspective. How often have you heard from a prospect who said they loved your product or service and could see how it would benefit them or their company, but they gave you an excuse as to why they couldn’t buy right then? What if you were assertive-in a gentle way-and let your prospect know that telling you NO was perfectly alright. In fact, you’d be happy if they told you NO they weren’t interested rather than give you one of the many excuses that salespeople always hear. Wouldn’t you feel better today knowing the file was closed rather than thinking you were getting the business even though your intuition was telling you otherwise?
Let’s look at it away from the work environment. We’ve all done it – made some kind of excuse rather than say NO. We might give an excuse because we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings by being honest. Isn’t that an odd way of conducting our life? We know we’re not interested; however, we feel that we have to protect our family and friends from telling them how we really feel. It’s interesting how we think we need to spare our family and friends from being hurt. Is it the fact that we have such a strong desire to be liked the reason why we don’t want to “rock the boat”?
How do we overcome this aversion to saying NO? First off, we have to figure out why we are so uncomfortable, which can take some coaching and self-study. The next thing is to learn to say NO to the little things that may not have a big impact. A good place to practice this is with those calls we all get at 6 pm, just when we’re sitting down to dinner. We don’t know the people calling and they don’t know us, so why not be brave and just say NO?
One of the most interesting things about not wanting to say NO is that we are the one who ends up getting hurt in the end. How many times have you walked away from a meeting with a “call me next week” line and yet when you call, the person has completely disappeared? They won’t answer your emails or return your voicemails. And think about your personal life. Have you ever tried planning a dinner party where it’s important for you to know if someone will be attending or not and you get a “maybe” or “I’ll let you know.” What you didn’t know was that they had no intention of coming for dinner but they just didn’t have the guts to tell you NO. Wouldn’t it be nice if people were just more comfortable with the word NO? Letting people know they can tell you NO helps immensely because it puts both of you at ease. Make it light-hearted by telling them “you’ll still love them even if they say NO.” This is sure to elicit a chuckle.
Here’s the challenge for you in the next 30 days – every time you want to come up with an excuse rather than say NO, take a deep breath and “just say NO”. What’s the worst thing that could happen to you?
Illustration by Rob Green