It sucks to hear someone tell you no. It sucks to say no. It sucks to have to tell your kids they can’t have something they want. That’s why I’m giving up “no”, and if you stick around for a few minutes, you may give up on it too.
The Enjoyment of No
People just love hearing “no”. When you tell someone no or reject their offer of their shoe-cutting knives, they’re thrilled. They laugh and smile. They tell their friends about it and try to get their friends to experience it to. They replay the situation over and over in their minds and snicker when they recall it.
Nope. Wait. That’s cat videos. I got confused.
Hearing no sucks. When people hear “no” immediately their defenses go up. Their expressions melt. Their happiness fades. Why? It’s probably not why you think, and it’s why I’m giving up “no”.
Before you think me crazy, let me just say, I think you might want to give up “no” too. It’s mainly because saying “no” is usually the least effective way to get someone onboard with an idea. Let’s look at a better way.
Why People Get Defensive
Let’s be clear about something: there are times that “no” is absolutely the right response. Sometimes you must forcefully tell someone that what they are doing is completely, 100% not welcome and unacceptable.
But the majority of the time there is a better way, and that’s really accomplished by understanding why people get defensive to begin with when they hear no.
People don’t like to hear no because it takes away their control. If there is one thing we like as a species it’s control. We would rather live a difficult life on our own terms than live an easy life where someone else told us where to go, what to do, what to eat, and who to interact with.
Which is why people hate “no”. It takes away all of our control. We want to do something and someone told us we can’t. We want to have something and we have been denied. No wonder people get so angry and frustrated when people tell them they can’t do something.
That’s why I’m giving up no: so I can give people back control. Once you see how it works, you will want to give it a try too.
Giving People Back Control
The thing about saying no is that we have taken the decision out of someone’s hands.
“Can I have ice cream, mommy?” “No”
“Do you want to go to the store with me?” “No”
“Can you proof this document for me?” “No”
A better way is to give people back control. After all, almost all no’s are decisions. We have decided that based on what we know and believe that no is the best answer. But are there scenarios in which it wouldn’t be? Why not present those scenarios and let the other person decide? It gives them control and you may even get a better result than you previously realized.
Taking this approach is why I’m giving up no. Here’s how it works.
Providing a Yes Scenario
If Tobias wants ice cream for a snack and it’s almost time for dinner, the inclination is to tell him no. But what we really want is for him to not spoil his supper. Instead of saying no, provide the scenario in which you would say yes and let him decide.
“Do you want to have ice cream after you eat your supper?”
If you don’t want to go to the store with your spouse because you have work that has to get done, there are a few scenarios that would work. Provide them instead of saying no.
“I have to get this work done and clean the bathroom before I can go. If you want to clean the bathroom or wait to go to the store until tomorrow, I can go with you. Do you want to do either of those?”
Or if you don’t want to proof a document for someone because you don’t feel strong in that area, just say so: “I don’t feel I’m the best person to proof this document. If you want me to do it, realize that it still might have issues. It would be best to find someone else to do it too or just do it all together. Do you still want me to proof it?”
Why I’m Giving Up No
So why am I giving up no? Simple: it’s the least effective way to get something done. It makes people defensive because it takes control out of their hands.
A better way is to figure out what a scenario looks like that would give you the opportunity to say yes, then present that scenario and let the other person decide whether or not they will take it. Maybe they won’t, but if they don’t then they are making the decision and not you.
It’s simple human nature: let people decide their own fate. Simply present them with options. It’s a much better way to respond effectively and to decrease conflict and find peace.