REALITY #18: No!

It’s short.  If offered properly, it sends a clear message.  How, to whom, and when you use it are three essential factors in either its success or its failure.  It should only be used after rational, reasonable, and will-intended thought.  An essential part of that thought process must include its potential for both intended and unintended consequences.

If used too often, it can diminish or even destroy trust and confidence.  Over use can also leave the user looking weak, ineffectual, unimaginative, under informed, obstinate, inflexible, and self-righteously arrogant.  If used in haste or in anger, it often creates a discomfort that has to be either tolerated or readdressed.  If that uneasiness is to be remedied, the process of doing so can be difficult, awkward, and cumbersome, if it works at all.

It can stop both good and evil deeds in their tracks.  It can damage or end relationships, or it can build and strengthen them in an instant.   It’s extremely simple to use.  It can be written, spoken, or offered with a facial expression, as well as with a shake of the head.  And ironically, its opposite is just about as short, and when used with the same thought, care, and attention, they are proportionately powerful and equally consequential.

When you use this leadership tool, know why you’re using it, and be prepared to share what motivated you to do so.  If not, you may accurately be seen as capricious and arbitrary.  Be open to the possibility of changing your mind, should circumstances make such a change prudent and advisable.

This powerful tool is the word no!

The words no and yes, when judiciously and thoughtfully used, are influential leadership tools that have the power to enhance understanding and augmenting collaboration, while providing definitive guidance and direction.

7 thoughts on “REALITY #18: No!

  1. My boundary-less answer is usually, “yes”. (I need to work on that) But I had a year where my children were so demanding, I just started saying, “No” almost as a gut response. And one night my daughter asked me something simple, like “Can I have a carrot?” And I immediately said, “No” My husband just started laughing. Instead of an immediate yes or no, I am learning to say, “Let me think about it.”

    1. Oh my, soooooooooo true. “Yes” has its place and so does “No” in leadership conversations. Knowing when to best use each of them is the trick. As you suggest, taking time to think is essential. Doing so adds depth and meaning to your yes’s and your no’s; people come to understand and appreciate that your words are well thought out and purposeful. Thanks for your comment!

      1. This discussion makes me think of the movie “yes day” where a child picks a day and the parents have to say “yes” all day to all requests. This movie is most likely made in response to the fact that parents always say no. However, what a great lesson to say “let me think about it” or even “let’s talk this through together and go over the pros and cons of the decision”. That would teach the child how to weigh decisions and how to think them through. This can also apply to teaching and schools. It’s important to teach our children to think things through and learn how those decisions can impact others.

        1. Thanks for your comment Julie. Taking the time to talk through perspectives, positions, and alternatives often allows those involved in the decision-making process to find some common ground upon which they can build a workable decision. They need not totally agree, if they can find sufficient, meaningful common ground where they can come together.

    2. As for a simple “no” answer, my nieces and nephew have forced me to rethink the amount of “nos” I use in a day! I now have to explain my responses in a way that will get them to understand my decisions, based on another simple word…..” why?” This has actually made it easier to respond to colleagues, parents, employees, students, and even sometimes my wife. I really try to listen to what people are saying or asking before I respond! I love your, “let me think about it” response.

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