Conditioning for NO

Do you say ‘NO’ too often?

Okay, that was a bit of trick question. We live in a society that allows for ample excuses on why ‘NO’ is acceptable. Yes, no can be a valuable phrase for when friends want to borrow money, when a client asks for a steep discount, or when my son asks to have marshmallows for dinner. I’m talking about the ‘NO’ in business that holds us back. The times where we are asked if we want to take on more responsibility or a new project. Saying ‘no’ rarely leads to progress. Henry Ford said ‘NO’ to his engineers thinking that the model T was the pinnacle of automotive innovation. This decision cost him a decade of progress and some of his top designers, including the Dodge brothers. Blockbuster said ‘NO’ to buying Netflix and is now just a piece of history. When we say no we are essentially accepting complacency. It’s one thing to be content where you are, but saying no to opportunity will stall progress and arrest your development.

For the past several year, people have been praising the idea of saying NO to certain things to provide ample time to say YES to the things that truly matter. Noble in its general principles, this philosophy can bleed over to other areas of our lives and hinder our progression. Having the ability and comfort to say NO is a great thing, however, people have become too flippant about exercising this right. In business around the world, people are missing out on all sorts of opportunities because they are over-empowered with the ability to say NO.

Several years ago I was working in sales for a niche software company. We would often provide demonstrations and even pilot projects to potential clients to allow them to see our software in action. This particular software saved our clients countless man hours with automated data management processes. While boring to hear about, saving people huge amounts of time and work is pretty neat. One day I was meeting with a potential client. This client seemed very happy where they were. “That’s ok.” I thought. “I’ll show them how much time they would save and they will totally onboard.” This was not the case. After our demonstration the client shrugged his shoulders. Maybe I did a bad job of explaining… perhaps a pilot program to test it? Again, “NO. I don’t want to try it out.” This man was saying NO to saving an approximate 15 hours of work a week. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Why?! Did he not like me or my company? Did he really like manually digging through thousands of documents?

It wasn’t until years later that I realized, he had been conditioned to say NO, even when faced with opportunity.

‘NO’ can be a very empowering phrase, but it can also be a damning one. It’s important to always maintain your ability to say NO, but don’t let it hinder your ability to say YES to right things.

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