Don’t Be A Doormat – Just Say “No”

One major pitfall in building relationships is the inability to say “no.” It is a common misconception that the word “no” is purely a negative word. Although it is a negative response, which is something most of us do not want to hear, it is much more of a reality word than “yes” and it should be viewed that way, especially when you are the person delivering the news.

Most people believe that great relationships are built on always saying “yes” to the other person. That is so untrue. When you are communicating within the boundaries of a solid relationship, the truth is much more impactful and bond-building than is merely a positive “yes” response. Unfortunately, delivering a positive is so much more fun. However, the problem remains that it will not be fun if that “yes” you just gave away is unobtainable. In personal relationships, you may receive a little slack when you fail to deliver on a promise, but in business, it’s deadly, and typically “one and done” (unless there is a very long history of good experiences).

So, how do we break through the barriers to realize that “no” in a business relationship is not a bad thing if it is done at the appropriate time and for the appropriate reasons? Let’s switch gears for a minute.  I imagine everyone, at some point in life, has had either a boyfriend or girlfriend who was too convenient, and was always too easy to readily say, “yes.” At a minimum, I’m sure we all have witnessed friends who have experienced this situation, on either the giving or receiving end. Think about what that ease of access invokes (I am pausing here so you can actually think about it). I can recall a number of situations where I have witnessed this behavior. And what is the typical outcome? The person who says “yes” all of the time is taken for granted, and is not truly respected. The giving person becomes a virtual doormat and is walked all over. This is not a relationship anyone should want to be in. This is not what embodies the power of Relationship Architecture; in fact, it’s absolutely destructive to any relationship.

You have not built a solid, mutually beneficial relationship if all you do is say “yes.” The reality of it is, “yes” is not possible at all times. I’ve had salespeople work for me throughout my career, and they, in general, are the worst when it comes to this concept. The fear of saying “no” is directly associated with compensation. Salespeople typically believe they cannot say “no” to a customer or a client for fear of losing revenue. The exceptional salespeople do not subscribe to this school of thought – but in this case, exceptional also means minority.

I always stressed to my sales group that it is much more impactful to be thoughtful of your answer than to rush to a quick “yes”; you must be absolutely sure that you can deliver before offering up the positive response. “No” can be your friend and will earn you respect if used appropriately, and not as standard operating procedure. Here are 3 ways to recognize when “no” is appropriate in a business relationship, and when “yes” will more drastically erode the relationship.

1)     When you know that the request is impossible to accomplish and there is no chance of it happening without the presence of luck. This includes aspects that are possibly do-able, but the where the cost associated with delivering on the request exceeds realistic expectations and is beyond what the relationship demands.

2)     When the person making the request has continually asked for favors, perks, and additional items outside the scope of your relationship, without regard to the quantity of requests and with apparent deliberate intentions to receive more than to give. This one-sided situation is a clear indication of being used as a doormat.

3)     When you are asked to do something unethical, immoral, or anything that will damage your reputation and the equity that you have built in your brand (personal or corporate).

Saying “no” in these instances should not damage the business relationship you posses with anyone – partner, client or consumer. If these instances of “no” do cause damage to the relationship, then it wasn’t built properly in the first place. The most solid relationships exist when everyone participates to achieve a mutually beneficial result. So don’t be afraid to be real; don’t be a doormat – just say “no!”

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