The word “no” is so compelling because it serves as both a positive and a negative.

We’ve written about this before, here and here, and it never fails to amaze us how much more there is to cover. This is because the crowning question that we asked, from clients to casual observers of our blog and social feeds is: “How do I say ‘no’?”

Saying “no” to an opportunity, a person or a situation is hard for three reasons:

  • It requires us to articulate the values that we hold dear.
  • It requires us to make judgment about those values in relation to another persons’ desires and requests.
  • It requires us to place a potential future best, above a present tangible good.

It is hard for people to say “no” (positively or otherwise) because we feel as though we are letting down other people. And being the social animals that we are, reciprocity and social norming exert a powerful pull upon our psyches, our hearts and even our souls.

The word “no” places a delineating marker between people, ideas, projects and purposes. It segregates, and closes off, even as it opens up other possibilities.  This is why rejection is such a hard thing to overcome for sales professionals, marketers and others who engage in the business of persuasion.

“No” ultimately can feel like a rejection of persuasion, rather than a statement of preference:

  • Preferring the safety of nostalgia over the danger of the new
  • Preferring the comfort of the present over the uncertainty of the next moment over
  • Preferring the status quo over a change

What are you saying “yes” to by saying “no”?

Originally published on March 19, 2015. 

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