I learned how to love the word “no” years ago when I was a sales person. I admit it took a little practice. The old me cringed every time a potential customer said “no.” I took it personally – that the person did not like something about me.
At a coaching conference I heard a speaker say that “no” was just another word like peanut butter or jelly. Now, I’ve never been a fan of either peanut butter or jelly, but I listened to the meaning behind what the speaker said and something clicked. It made sense. There are so many possibilities behind the “no” response. My listening changed. I started to listen for and hear the many different messages behind “no.” My world opened up – so did my sales results!
The person could be saying “No, not right now. I’ve got to feed the cat.” – or – “No, I have to take my son to soccer practice now.” which then begs the question “When might be a good time to talk?” – or – “No, I don’t have time to do this now, and can I do it tomorrow?” Get my point? “No” does not mean the end – final. “No” just means at this moment in time I do not want what you are offering. That does not mean I might not want it down the road.
To make “no” my friend, I realized that I needed to do two things. First, I needed to change the word in my mind so that it did not cause a visceral reaction when someone said it to me. To accomplish this I simply substituted another word in my mind whenever I heard someone say “no” to me. I thought of wine, and chocolate and potato chips––just a few of my favorite things. You get my point. When I substituted things I loved for the word “no” the sting disappeared.
Second, I learned to change the question I was asking / what I was saying – or – use a buffer to make sure my question was not intruding on something else that needed the person’s immediate attention. In fact, I learned that engaging someone in a conversation about his or her needs and interests and then broaching the subject of my request worked better than a straight forward yes/no question. And my buffer – “Might you have a moment to talk about . . . “ worked in most instances.
If you are a person looking to learn how to embrace “no” as your friend, try a few of these suggestions. Then let me know how these worked for you at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.janeflagello.com.
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