, , , , , , , ,

_DSC1990No is a perfectly acceptable answer….providing,

  • The idea or suggestion lacked thought or had no basis in fact. (e.g.; Would Donald Trump be a good President?)
  • The idea or suggestion has obvious flaws. (e.g.; Should we let a gun be in a room with a bunch of 2nd grade children?)
  • Is a matter of personal opinion or seeks personal approval. (e.g.; Would you go out with me?)

But when an idea or suggestion doesn’t fall under any of these categories, the “no” answer becomes a potential weapon of personal destruction for the person saying it, and a beautiful opportunity for the person on the receiving end.

Being the youngest of four boys, my brothers and parents became accustomed to telling me ‘no.’ I was constantly asking questions and making suggestions, and the ‘yes’ answer was likely to encourage me. In those situations where I actually had a good idea, it was enough that as the youngest member of the family, a ‘no’ answer was valid.

As an adult, I never had any expectations that my ideas and suggestions would be better received, so hearing ‘no’ was an irritation, but I accepted it as part of life.

However, I as grew older I noticed that some people seemed to enjoy telling other people ‘no.’ Often these people were in leadership positions and their tactic was to dominate and/or intimidate others. In some cases people would act as a dictator within the organization, silencing the ideas and opinions of others with a type of ‘no’ answer that implied dire consequences if the person didn’t drop the subject, or the idea was treated so lightly as if the person was unintelligent for making the suggestion. For years I thought that part of being a good manager was to have the privilege and responsibility to tell others, “NO!” 

Then several years ago I joined a service club and became very involved in the organization. I served on several Boards and committees. I discovered that I could manipulate some people because I always knew their response to whatever I suggested would be, ‘no.’

It was then I realized that when someone says ‘no,’ it is a gift. The “No-ee” has done all they are required by making the suggestion or asking the question. The “No-er” has put their reputation and respectability on the line. The ‘no’ answer gives them all the responsibility, and, as a situation plays out, their failure to consider someone else’s idea or suggestion may be the fatal decision that brings them down.

I still find enjoyment of sometimes asking a perfectly legitimate question of someone I know will give me a ‘no’ answer. It is even more interesting to do this when I have more information about the issue or situation than they do and they can’t help but give me an answer that will eventually haunt them.

Still, I have learned that organizations and relationships with ‘no’ people are typically doomed. There’s a time to experience the joy of ‘no,’ and then there are times it’s best to walk away and shake the dust off your sandals.