Little words in whatever language we speak. Big mischief if we don't use them when we should. We end up half-committed to projects and other decisions we know we really don't support, taking precious time away from other priorities, working without the focus that comes from commitment.
Resentfully wasting time.
Search Amazon.com and you'll find a staggering amount of books in getting to "yes" but nary a one on getting to a "no" or saying "no" for that matter. Curiously, most of the ones on saying "no" were written with children in mind. Truthfully, some of those books purport to be sales manuals, but are little more than cheap verbal manipulations designed to satisfy us. Funny enough, I can't tell you how many salesfolk I've met who hate being "sold to." They hate when someone doesn't take "no" for an answer. We all do. And still their bookshelves are lined with books that keep spreading the magic.
In this business 2.0 world of relationships we find ourselves on a collision course between two sets of desires: theirs (customers, partners, vendors, suppliers, employees) and ours. Doing untold damage to their chances for the further collaboration. A half-hearted "yes" becomes the low-hanging fruit.
Clean, concise, authentic communication is always the ticket. We end up with less to remember when we stick to the plain, unvarnished truth with little embellishment.
On the show, I talked about the four options you have in responding to requests made to you. They are:
With us committed to an action either immediately or in the future. Ever heard a prospect say "I'd like to do it in January at the top of the budget year?" Our training has us inclined to try to get them to do it now when they might really mean "I want to sign up in January." Here, you can tell them that you're going to take them at their word...and get your proposal ready for them to sign now with a January start date. You can even make sure that they meant it by calling a spade a spade: "I want to be clear that you are commencing in January. So, I'll take you American Express number so I can run the agreed-upon amount on January 1."
Onlineorganizing.com maven Ramona Creel suggests that there are 20 Ways to Say No; however I find that, given some of the equivocations she suggests, people are liable to enter into a tussle with us, believing that those equivocations are up for negotiation. If it doesn't work, isn't consistent with your commitments--whatever--stop trying to be "nice." A clean "no" will save you from trying to manufacture a reason (which isn't nice, by the way). You don't need one (unless you've trained your business associates that you do).
You may, in fact, want that project, but with some clear caveats. Tell them so: "I'd like to commit here, and I have a few changes that will have it really work for our team. Take a look and see if we can work those in and then I'm all in." Here, they can say yes or no--they can even counter your counter. This is called a negotiation. Have fun and be clear in you communications.
Commitment to Commit Later
You may be racing out the door. Keep moving. We sometimes say things to people to placate them and hope we can dig ourselves out later. If you don't have time to carefully consider an offer now, resist the pressure to commit right away. Giving people a clear date and time you want to discuss the merits of their request with them will satisfy most. Putting it on your calendar will satisfy even more. Really racing out the door and can't stop. Ask them to email you a request with some suggested dates and times for your talk...and then keep moving.
...and now some Zen from the epic movie, White Men Can't Jump:
Rosie Perez: Sometimes when you win, you really lose. Sometimes when you lose, you really win. Sometimes when you win or lose. you actuallyWe hate it, too. Woody. So get this: Some of us sound eerily similar when we say "Sometimes when they say yes, it's really yes. Sometimes when they say no, it's really yes. Sometimes when they say yes or say no it's actually maybe..." You get the point (and probably a headache, too.
tie. Sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose.
Woody Harrellson: I hate it when you talk like that.
Simplify Your Work Like: Ways to Change the Way You Work So You Have More Time to Live...some of these suggestions are stunningly simple and effective.
On my list to read is Saying No: A User's Manual by Karen Bading. It purports to helping people say "no" without wrecking their relationships. I'll let you know.
Listen Now: 24.01