Notice that we said that we want to enhance our business, but “no” is often thought of as such a negative expression – almost combative at times. While it can signal an unwillingness to do something or lack of cooperation, it is a word that we use too infrequently in our business for asserting control and power.
“No” is one of the shortest words in our language, but one that generally conveys a clear meaning. There may need to be an explanation that goes with it, but saying or hearing the word “no” usually means that whatever was asked was not the case or not desired. It doesn’t have to be an impolite or ugly word although we often infer or interpret it be used in this way by the tone of voice or the way it was used. Nevertheless, the word “no” is just a brief expression that answers a question by indicating that something did not or will not happen, that a preference was not agreed to, or that a choice was not supported.
The word “no” also is one of the first words we learn as children. In fact, we may even learn it before being able to say other words such as our word for mother or water. We hear it used toward us – as in telling us what not to do or what to stay away from. We also find that it forms easily in our mouths and gives us a degree of independence by proclaiming what we don’t want to do or don’t like – as in trying a new food.
As we grow older, we shy away from saying no. We are told it is not polite. We are told that we need to be more positive. We are told we need to try new things. We want to fit in. We want to be liked. We don’t want to appear negative. We learn to say “no” less and less.
Some of us have a compliant or amiable personality where we want to get along and really don’t like telling people “no.” We look for ways to make things work. We don’t like conflict. We want things to work out and will do anything in our power to resolve apparent conflicts or issues. There is nothing wrong with this approach except that sometimes we can find ourselves, in a business setting, doing something to please another person or because we think we should rather than doing something because it advances the purpose or mission of our business.
If we want to do something and feel that it is in the best interest of our company and the clients we serve, that’s great. On the other hand, if we really feel that an opportunity or something we are being asked to do is contrary or potentially harmful to our mission, purpose, client base, or people we work with as strategic partners, then saying “no” is the right response.
Saying “no” can be the appropriate response in several instances. When we are asked to do something we feel is not right ethically or legally, when we are presented an opportunity that is not a good fit for what we typically do (our business model), when we have a different objective for our client that they do, when we are not happy or satisfied with a suggested design as being what will benefit the client, when the time frame to accomplish a job is unreasonable, when the budget won’t accommodate the job that needs to be done, or other situations like this, saying “no” is what we should do.
Then we can walk away from the situation with no regrets, no looking back, and no second-guessing ourselves. We were well within our rights as a professional to handle the matter this way. Now, we can move on to something more productive.