The Art of Saying “NO” — 3 Reasons “NO” Feels so Bad and 3 Tips to Make it Easier
The Art of Saying “NO” — 3 Reasons “NO” Feels so Bad and 3 Tips to Make it Easier

Why does saying “no” create so much hostility, fear, and negative connotation? It is something everyone single one of us has had to do at some point; whether we are saying not to our children, our parents, our colleagues, or the worst a customer or potential client. No one really looks forward to saying no, in fact in many ways I think many of us try to avoid the difficult conversation that no challenges us to have to. I found this great article from the Huffington Post talking about why you avoid difficult conversations. Check this out:

Why You Avoid Difficult Conversations

The reality is we probably say “no” to something every day, sometimes more subconsciously — for example: “no thank you, I don’t have milk in my coffee” or “no, don’t touch that it’s dirty”. Sound familiar? Not all “no” conversations are the big anxiety ridden doozers that make us want to turn and run, or find someone else to have the conversation for us or maybe avoid the conversation for a few days, weeks and suddenly months…

So, the question is why is “no” so scary? I believe there are 3 big reasons:

1) Rejection — we all have a real dislike and perhaps fear of being rejected. No one wants to feel the let down or being turned away. Having to reject someone and create the emotions around rejection can be a negative association. As a result we try to avoid associating ourselves with rejection.

2) Fear of Confrontation — oftentimes we associate saying no as an affront. Many of us have no desire to create what could be perceived as a negative conversation with someone else, it makes us uncomfortable and awkward. It is natural to make us want to avoid the situation.

3) Fear of Letting Someone Down — if we say no, we will potentially be letting the other person down by no fulfilling what it is they were looking to achieve and by doing that we will be disappointing them creating negative feelings. Being the ones delivering the news they may associate those negative sentiments with us therefore we try not to be the ones to deliver the news or try to avoid doing so.

Here’s a great TEDX from Kenny Nguyen on the “Art of Saying No”. Perhaps, in all our understanding and fear around no there is a bigger message to the use of no, understanding that it is a powerful word that has large implications.

A common question is what is the etiquette around saying no? Should there be any? I know from 18+ years’ experience that there is. I have been the person saying no and the receiver. I have seen some best in class and some terrible. Here’s a personal “no” story I can share that happened to me quite recently. Some of you may know that my business partner is my husband. We re-strategized our business about 8 months ago and have had the fortunate opportunity to present and pitch some exciting new partners. One particular client we started working with early in the summer. We presented an impressive and creative pitch based on some original content helping to carve out a unique point of differentiation in a new channel for them.

One presentation led to a second and a third; significant but exciting investment for us. Finally, an amazing outcome, budget and concept approval by all required. We won we won! Then, out of nowhere, three weeks later I received an email titled “unfortunate news” and without much of an explanation or detail just: “we’ve looked at 2017 and decided to move forward on other initiatives we believe fit better with the insights or our brand.” So, disappointing, deflating, and vague.

Are many of you out there thinking to yourselves “oh yeah that’s happened to me” or maybe “yikes, I know that email/text” or perhaps you’ve been the one having to deliver the news? So what’s wrong with it? It’s factual, no contract was signed, there’s no obligation yet. Does it matter? It absolutely does matter. At the core of all interactions are feelings. At the foundation of business which is dominated by networking and built on relationships. Those relationships are based on people interactions and understanding how others are feeling. It is important to always be thinking about how you make people feel. There is a time and place for a text or email but when it comes to saying no here is my list of tips:

1) Plan: before you say anything think about what you want to say and put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

2) Direct connect: connect with the person as directly as possible. Last possible resort should be email and never text.

3) Sound Reasoning: be sure you have a solid and empathetic approach with a strong reason for your no.

Not as complicated as it may seem. We build it up so much but perhaps when we step back and think about it a little, take a pause and maybe plan a bit it won’t be so daunting. Give it a shot! Let me know what you think. Until next time…

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