It’s a short, powerful word that we add to our vocabulary pretty early in life, driving parents crazy around the age of two as we repeat it ad nauseum. But as we grow older, we don’t say it as much, because we don’t want to offend or hurt someone’s feelings. If you’re a people pleaser (guilty as charged), it usually gets stuck mid-throat and rather than fight with the larynx to let it out, we end up shaking our head in the affirmative with a fake smile plastered on for good measure because we want the other person to be happy. To like us – it’s middle school all over again.
Can you work late? – Sure!
Would you like to go to the dance with me?- Yes!
Could you give me a discount? – OK.
We’ve just screwed ourselves over by committing to something we really, really didn’t want to because we’re afraid of making the other person upset. There is no escape pod to jettison out on, no turning back, no graceful way out without upsetting the other party and looking like a jerk. So we grit our teeth and push on through, silently fuming about it as the black pit of resentment grows deep in our bowels.
Ugh. What a horrible way to live.
What’s worse is the insidiousness of acrimony, quietly gnawing away at relationships like a cancer, eroding trust and camaraderie little bit by little bit until there is an anger filling in all the empty spaces. All because of one little word that was never uttered.
Well, no more, my friends. It’s time to embrace the NO. Own it, make it yours, be unabashedly upfront for your fondness for it. NO creates velvet-roped boundaries that must be heeded. NO creates respect for your time, your knowledge, your love and your service. NO leaves a place for you in a world with an insatiable appetite to gobble all.
Now this isn’t a Get Out of Jail card to go all Joffrey from Game of Thrones since the idea is not to piss everyone off to the point they want to kill you in the most painful way possible. Rather, it’s about sharing what you are able to offer. It’s not a rejection of the other person but respecting them and yourself enough to create an honest dialogue. Or as the Piano Man once crooned, “honesty is such a lonely word and all I really want from you.”
The thing about NO is that it can be said in many other ways that are kinder, gentler but still truthful. How do you do this?
a) use positive language so a NO sounds more like a YES
Would you like to go to the dance with me? – Thank you so much for the invitation. It’s wonderful you’d think of me. I’m so sorry but no, I’m not able to. I’m sure you’ll still have a great time even if I’m not your dance partner!
b) try to offer an alternative solution
Can you work late? – I’d love to spend more time on this project but unfortunately, I have other commitments today so, no, I can’t stay. Let’s see how I can help during the rest of the week.
c) give a detailed explanation
Could you give me a discount? – I’d love to work with you on this but the price is firm so I’m not able to give you a discount. What I can do, however, is give you (XYZ) as a bonus. How does that sound?
Not so hard, right? No one walks away feeling like the other person is an ass, you don’t feel like you’ve given away the farm for a one-way ticket to Sucky Town and everyone feels they’ve negotiated for their best interests. Win/win.
Don’t fear the NO. Take it and wrap it lovingly within a velvet glove to be gently offered, as one would to a gentleman upon alighting from a carriage (maybe I’ve watched Pride and Prejudice once too many times).
Be fear-less but gentle for NO is a powerful ally. Make it yours.