Service of No II

March 31st, 2014

Categories: Communications, No

I previously covered the subject of no from the point of view of how to bounce back after hearing the word.

It takes equal skill for some to say it. I’m one of those who often fail. For one, because I so rarely do, nobody believes me. I also think that being in a service business I find ways to compromise when a client over-demands [with no intention of paying more], negotiating a plan that works for both.

But this spirit of cooperation doesn’t serve me well when I pile on obligations I could live without because I’ve not said “no.”  Because I’m an efficient juggler, someone with energy and a workaholic, I’ve been weak too often. Yet there are times I must disappoint.

Some of the tips Elizabeth Bernstein covered in her Wall Street Journal article “The Right Answer is ‘No’” is a start to reformation. She suggests rehearsing; having at hand a generic “I’ll think about it” statement if surprised; delaying response and being mindful of your tone when saying the dreaded word–keep it pleasant.

In a sidebar “Set Boundaries” she suggests “Blame outside circumstances or a prior commitment.” She warns that you should “avoid implying your obligations are superior to the other person’s request.” Unless the other appointment was to go window shopping with a local friend or something as frivolous, I disagree with this rationale. You have already said “yes” to a prior business or personal appointment so why set yourself up to disappoint and having to say “no” to the first person? Why even get into the specifics with Number 2?

Bernstein adds that you should repeat the refusal “so the other person gets the message,” and “resist the temptation to add ‘Maybe next time’–unless you mean it.”

What works for you?

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6 Responses to “Service of No II”

  1. Ginny Pulos Said:

    You know what they say? Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean. And, NO, is a complete sentence. What a relief!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Funny, but I doubt I could say that one word without a few frills around it like, “I’m so sorry but no.”

  3. Horace Peabody Said:

    The trouble is “No” is such a negative word. I think how you use it very much depends upon who and what is involved.

    If it is one of those sales calls from India, you can tell in two seconds, say without listening further, “No thank you” and hang up. The caller’s invasion of your privacy justifies the rudeness of the response.

    On the other hand, if a bright, energetic, creative employee comes to you with his latest wacky idea, take your time, listen, talk with him and explain in enough detail to be sure that he understands you, why you are turning him down. You never know, his next idea may not be so wacky and could make you a million bucks.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are SO POLITE! Those sales calls–even from down the block–when they wake you on a Saturday morning to sell you new windows deserve a “click” hangup noise and no response although I guess I usually say “No thanks,” rather than just “no,” or just “click” especially if the caller sounds like he/she could be me. What a difficult job.

    You sound like a great boss.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    No is the best word in any language. There have been times I’ve not liked to use it, but have no regrets. Much depends on how it’s said and to whom. No has a companion: Tact. They make a fine team!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A crisp and succinct response–little more need be said.

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