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Hone your energy on finding a big YES and saying “no” a thousand times.

Your focus determines your reality. It really does. Just the other day, I was speaking with one of my team members and she was “freaking out” that we were not getting the results as anticipated, which was making her feel overwhelmed. My response was to go for the “no”. Go for “no” as many times as possible until you get to the BIG “yes”. That’s my secret to success. The quicker you get over and done with the “no”, the quicker you can move on.

It amazes me to see how many individuals, especially sales people, spend so much time and energy on the “no”. No means no. I understand that “no” right now may mean that this is not the right time for me? Can we talk about it at a later date? Today I am swamped. The amount of times I have worked with sales people chasing their tail when the prospective client was showing signs of “no” all along… And, clearly, the client was still in contract with their service provider. Why does this happen? I believe it occurs because most of us are too afraid to ask the question. They don’t want to hear the “no”, the negative connotation it carries with it; it feels like you have been rejected. No one wants to feel rejected. However, if you don’t ask, the answer is already “no”!

Fail Your Way to Success

Harland David Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken had a hard time selling his chicken… he was rejected 1,009 times before he got the BIG ‘yes’. Harland says there is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.

What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be instead of how it really is. When it comes to discovering the details, bear in mind that our brains evolved to learn through trial-and-error exploration. Therefore, using what we learn to attempt to solve real-world problems and adjusting our behaviors or ideas based on the results augments the retention of skills and information.

Much of our most important emotional and interpersonal learning occurs during our first few years of life, when our more primitive neural networks are in control. Hence why so many of us fear the word “no”. As a child, how many times do you think you heard the word? Are you sitting down? One study shows that, on average, a child hears the word “no” or “don’t” over 148,000 times while growing up, compared with just a few thousand “yes” messages.

The Secret to Saying “No”

If you’ve ever spent any time with a toddler, you’ll notice that they say “no” a lot. In developmental terms, this is a big milestone and it happens around the age of 2-3 years. A recent study actually found that toddlers argue with their parents as much as 20-25 times per hour! The important fact here is that toddlers are not doing this to be difficult and defy parental authority. For them, it’s more about exerting a sense of self and a sense of control in their little worlds where everything is new and can be bit overwhelming.

Adults can learn a thing or two from this. Relocating this sense of self is a good start.

Saying no is hard. You don’t want to be seen as rude, or difficult or unhelpful. So don’t give people reason to think that at all. Smile, and politely say one of these alternatives:

  • Can I get back to you?
  • Can I think about it?
  • Unfortunately, it’s not a good time right now.
  • Maybe another time.
  • Sounds great, but I have other commitments.
  • Could you please give me more information before I decide?
  • Thank you, but no thank you.
  • I’d love to, but I can’t.
  • Thank you for thinking of me, but I can’t.
  • Another time might be better.
  • I’m not sure if I am the best person for it.
  • I’m trying to cut back on commitments.
  • I won’t be able to dedicate the extra time needed for this project.

Now… in saying this, I have also encountered some individuals who say “no” all the time. It’s their default or polar reaction. The secret with these kinds of individuals is your approach. I would start my question with: “You probably are not interested in what I have to say or offer you” or “I guess you wouldn’t want to come to this weekend retreat” or “You are probably not ready to sign the agreement yet?” Guess what? The response you will get most of the time is “why not?” You see, the only way of dealing with people with a polar reaction is to go in the opposite direction.

Try It on for Size

Our brains have evolved to pay attention to the behaviors and emotions of other people. Not only is this process complex, but also it is lightning-fast, shaping our experience of others milliseconds before we even become consciously aware of their presence. We automatically generate a story of what is going on their mind, our ideas about what they know, what their motivations may be, and what they might do next. As a result, we are as quick to think we know others, as we are slow to become aware of our own motives and faults.

Taking our thoughts about others and trying them on for size has the potential to teach us about ourselves and increase our empathic abilities. Let’s get out of the story in our mind and ask the question. Do not make assumptions unless you know the whole story. If in doubt, ask the person directly.