The Problems With No
A few years back, I was given the professional guidance to say "no" more. The thinking was that because I was taking too much on, I couldn't get everything accomplished. Or, in getting everything accomplished, I was burning myself out. With trepidation, and the support of my supervisors, I began to say no. While I wasn't thrilled with turning people down, I was eager to advance my career by taking on the advice of seasoned professionals. The response to my "nos" was nearly always shocked and rarely positive. However, given my relative security in the company and their directive to do so, I continued in my "no" ways and encountered few lasting effects other than a little suspicion into the new word in my vocabulary.
Recently the word reimmerged in my life in two very different ways, but yielding a similar conclusion; there are some problems with "no," and unless you know how and when to use it effectively, it can have permanent consequences.
The first problem with the word is it only has one meaning. Because of this lack of necessary clarification, it can immediately close doors. It's final. With the growth of a business, you never want to hear or give a no. You're only as good as many clients you have. Say no to one opportunity and who knows when or if there will be another. As a result, a "no" must require a great deal of thought. Will this opportunity cost me money? Is it detrimental to my brand? Will I not be able to take on a better job as a result of this one? You should confidently know exactly why you're saying no. If the reasons aren't strong, you may want to select another word that leaves room for negotiation.
The other problem with no is it's simple and catchy. The more you say it, the more you want to say it, without any regard as to why. Just ask any small child.
Which brings me to the key reason this word is back on my radar. . .
My dear friend told me that her doctor had warned her against using the word "no" too often on her young daughter when she was Maisie's age. Her reason: if everything was no, her daughter wouldn't easily be able to distinguish the really serious "nos" from the casual ones. A hard no would be her climbing up on a chair to try to get to the electrical outlet. (Yes, she does this. See image to the right). A hard no is pulling on the dog's hair. A soft no? Throwing food from her high chair onto the ground. Is it polite, no. Is it dangerous? Also, no.
No is an incredibly important and powerful word. It should be used. Just that power and that seriousness can be dwindled with repeated use. Instead of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, it's The Mom Who Called No.
Because I say no so instinctively to Maisie, Nibbler and sometimes Jason, cutting back on my nos is a tricky task. However, I've decided to take a more thoughtful approach to the word in both business and life. It's only going to be a matter of time until the word "no" is followed by "why" and I want to have a confident answer.
I'm also going to pull out a thesaurus and find some good synonyms for maybe. Perhaps I'll discover a fun one and that will be Maisie's second word. Sounds like a good plan, right? Will it work? No?