The Gift of “No”


Time.   We spend it, and we can’t get it back.

Recent life events have me thinking about implementing a Bloomberg-style countdown clock.  The broader goal:  optimizing my productivity, recovery, and relationships.   Doing what really matters.

Every day, opportunities arise.  Events.  Invitations to connect via social media.  Requests for our participation.  Offers of introductions.

And, oh yeah, my own ideas about what I should, can, or might do.

Sometimes I say yes.  And sometimes, “No, thank you.”

It’s about time, and attention.

I also listen for No, and endeavor to hear it.   Every business owner has to be a salesperson; I’ve been riding quite a learning curve with this skill set.

One lesson learned: there are many flavors of No.

There’s Not Now, which I’ve rarely seen move to a yes.  (Maybe as I become a better salesperson, my conversion rate will improve?)

There’s also Not Yet, which I see as an invitation to build relationship.

Mark Suster recently shared Paul C. Brunson’s simple approach to building relationship:  “I give, give, give, give, give, then ask.”


There’s the Non-Response.   This can be tough to read.   When faced with someone’s Non-Response, I consider relationship, any knowledge about work/family demands they may be feeling, the possibility that my message may not have been received…

And oh, yeah.  The fact that I’m not the center of the universe.

The Non-Response can be a Not Now, a Not Yet, a mixed message, or a missed message.  And sometimes it’s a No.

No can be a difficult conversation.   It may challenge our perception of ourselves as one of the nice guys.

To me, No is a gift.   Whether I’m giving, or receiving.

No need to mark the calendar to follow up.  To send that email or note, or pick up the phone.   No need to ruminate over what may or may not happen.

The gift is clarity.  Honesty.

And most of all, No is the gift of time.   For all parties.

When we open this gift, we can step into a universe of other possibilities.   Discoveries we can make only when we have time to explore.


Photo:  No Hunting Sign 5-9-09 4 by Steven Depolo, via Flickr, under Creative Commons license.  (And wow, you really find some interesting people on Flickr.   Steven’s photostream is filled with interestingness and beauty!)

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