What to Do When Someone Says “NO”

Welcome! Today we’re going to look at something difficult for many of us to handle. We don’t appreciate it if someone says “No” to our request. Period. What annoys us the most is that, for the moment, we feel rejected. Let me give you some ways to assess:

  • How to prepare your request to raise the probability of the recipient saying “Yes,”
  • How to make that request, and
  • What do you do if the person says “No?”

I’m going to give you the punchline first. It’s this:

How you are when people say “No” to you says more about you than how you are when people say “Yes.” 

We’ll get to that later in this article, but first, let’s examine what happens when we contemplate requesting something from another person.

One of the most courageous things we can do is ask another person to do something on our behalf. It’s vulnerable because there’s always the possibility that this person will say “No.”

In addition, it’s often difficult for the other person because they may not want or be able to do what you’re suggesting, yet they’re worried about what you might think of them if they refuse. And they might be anxious about what happens if they say “Yes.”

Before we proceed, let’s examine how you can maximize the possibility that the other person will say “Yes” to your request. 

  • Be clear about what you’re asking for. It’s of the utmost importance that the recipient of your request knows what you’re talking about! Do you need the support of a neighbor to feed and walk your dog two times a week for the next three weeks? Do you want to negotiate working from home three days a week? Do you need help installing a new app on your computer?
  • Be clear that the recipient of your request can fulfill it. Can they do what you’re asking them to do? For example, say you’d love their help feeding your cat during your four days away. But are they allergic to cats? Your request could put the person through a bit of stress.

If you’re talking to your manager about working from home, do they have the power to grant the permission you seek? If this concerns your computer, does your friend or colleague have the time to help you install that app?

  • Be clear about why you’re making this request to them now. Does this need to be done right now, or can it wait for a better time?

What do you do when someone says “No?” 

Here are some guidelines for asking or responding to a request. They are helpful in most situations.

First, don’t take it personally when they refuse the request. While we’re tempted to think they’re saying “No” to us rather than saying “No” to the request itself, this is generally not the case!  Your fears about hearing the “No” word will diminish when you see this. The following will illustrate this point.

For some years, I was the fundraising coordinator for The Holiday Project, a non-profit organization whose volunteers visited people in convalescent homes and hospitals during holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. My job was to support volunteers in reaching out to people they knew who would be interested in contributing funds to keep the project going.

One year, when we were at the Holiday Project’s national conference. It was my turn to talk about fundraising. Everyone’s biggest fear was the other person saying “No.” Close your eyes right now and imagine you want to raise money for a project you love. Imagine asking someone if they’d contribute twenty dollars to that project. What would you do if the person said “No” to you?

In an exercise, participants alternated between soliciting donations and responding with “Yes” or “No” based on my cues. Upon my signal, they circulated, with one-half of them requesting $20 donations for the Holiday Project and the other half responding with “Yes” or “No.” The task for the first half of the people was to say “Thank you” before moving on, no matter how the other person responded to their request. After five minutes, the roles were swapped. We were desensitizing everyone to either say “No” to a request or say “Thank you,” no matter what answer they got. There was a general sigh of relief when everyone discovered that there was no need to panic no matter the answer, and that saying “No” was a perfectly acceptable response to a request.

How you are when someone says “No” to a request says more about you than when they say “Yes.”

I was at a massive discount house last week where people go to avail themselves of bargains.  I walked past a young woman at a display for a well-known phone service. She smiled at people as they passed by, calling out to some about this bargain for cell phone coverage. Some said, “No thanks,” and others said nothing as they passed her. 

I walked up to her, secretly worried because I’d say “No” when asked if I wanted to buy her product. But she simply said, “Hi!”  I acknowledged her for her inviting smile, no matter what the people said as they passed her. Her comment: “Some of them return on their way out of here and ask me about this product. It’s not a problem at all!” 

When I asked if she was worried about people saying “No” after talking with them, she said that someone would say “Yes” sooner or later and that she wanted everyone to feel ok about themselves, no matter what they decided.

When someone says “No,” you thank them and acknowledge them for taking their time to learn about how your product works or to find out more about your project. People’s time is a precious commodity, even more now than 20 years ago when we lived in a less information-packed world.

Sometimes, a “No” means “Not at this time.” 

It isn’t the final word on whether or not they’ll do what you’ve requested. One way to discover this is by giving the other person time to think it over or information on how they can contact you in the future.

I’ve talked to people who make sales for a living. Some worry that if the other person doesn’t immediately decide to buy or donate, they never will. If you hold that view, you can pressure the other person. I know from my own experience that this tactic never works. It only drives the other person away from the opportunity to donate, buy, or permit you to work from home.

That’s all for now! I hope this information helps you gain valuable ways to make a request and respond if the other person says “No.” Please remember – asking and responding if someone doesn’t say “Yes” to your request takes courage. Keep going!

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