Friday, June 08, 2007

NO - a simple two letter word. But, the power of this word. A lot.

No is probably is the most difficult word to utter. By design humans are hard wired to be not able to say 'No'. I do not know what was the rational for original design to make it so difficult to say no but there seem to be several possible explanations from sociological stand point.

After people realized how hard it is to say No, some people who had mastered the art of saying know came out some books. In those books, they conveyed the importance of being able to say No and how it helps to retain our sanity. Their point is that if we are unable to say No, we will over commit and under deliver.

I am not sure if I buy the idea that we all should get better at saying No. I do not at least agree with the practice saying No prematurely.

Look back at the situations when you said no quickly when someone asked for something and what happened at that time. Chances are you made that person feel miserable for a moment at least. In all likelihood, the person felt more miserable at the way you said no than the fact that you said no. Once a person gets that treatment from you, he will weigh pros and cons of asking you anything next time. Does that do you any good? You may have gotten rid of that person and possible nuisance of his request one time, but you should realize you also probably lost him for good as far any help or information in the future.

Humans are hardwired not be able to say No that easily because as illustrated above it is injurious to social relationships between humans. It's the social relationship when developed, will lead to all sorts of good things in humans. Social bonding and its power is what contributes to society's success. So, the nature felt that it was good idea to make it awfully difficult to say No.

I am not saying that we should not say No at all. That's is not the case. What I am saying is that if we can take little time to listen and understand what the other person is saying, we will be in a better position to address his or her request more appropriately than saying terminal No and this ruining the social fabric between two human beings.

In most of the situations, people who come up with requests, help etc. become more receptive our saying no if they realize that we have given adequate attention and time to listen to them. Moreover, there are a very few situations when absolute no is necessary. In most of the situations, we can at least suggest some alternatives than saying plain and very cold No. We should at least be able to do that.

Remember the person you think you are going to get rid of by saying No which may seem like a slap of his face is not going to forget how you made him/her feel for a long time. When it is his or her time, you can be sure to be paid back. Do you want that?

Even if you are someone who do not need any favors or help from anyone, you at least need all the possible feedback and information from everyone if you want to get your job done. Imagine you are a manager, if you take the attitude of repelling your people with No every time they come for any help or suggestion, do you think you will be successful? People shy away from asking you even when they must ask you and they royally screw up and create a mess that you will anyway have to clean up. Secondly, people who felt bad or hurt by your saying No will hold back information from unconsciously and thus lead you into making decisions without all the information which many time prove out to be worst decisions you make. After a few such decisions, you are on your way out.

No has the highest potential to make people feel miserable and worthless. So, I think it should be used with a lot of care. The schools of thought which advocate saying no to happiness and relief seem to take a very shortsighted view.

So, next time when you squirm uncomfortable at the prospect of having to say No or to agree to something when you do not want, take a timeout. If you are unable to take time, ask for more information and as more information emerges you along with the other person will be able to develop a middle ground which does not require No.

By all means, read books such as 'How to say No' but also realize that nature made it difficult to say no for a reason and like many other things going against the nature has never helped.


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