I’ve asked you for a favor and you have said “no.”
Sounds like the end of the conversation, right?
Wrong! — it’s just the beginning!
My job is to find out what exactly you said “No” to. What aspect of my request triggered your response?
Four Reasons for a “No”
In most circumstances there are only four reasons that someone says “No” to a request:
We might be able and willing — just not right now.
We might be happy to help but not at that level, whether the level is one of effort (“I’m moving on Monday — can you help with the furniture?”) or the amount of money requested (“Please give $5,000 today to help my organization?”).
We might not be confident that we can do what we’ve been asked.
4. The Project Itself
We might not like or be interested in the particular task or project.
If I can find out which of these factors made you say “no,” I can start reshaping my request until it’s something you’d be happy to do.
And then, yes, I win — and you win too!
“No” is Often Just a Starting Point
Human beings are hard-wired to want to help one another. (Watch for a post about this soon.) So it makes sense to take most of the “No’s” you encounter as starting points in shaping conversations about how the other person can — and wants to — help.
Obviously, not every “No” is a gateway to a related “Yes.”
Sometimes the other person simply cannot or does not want to do what you have asked, or anything related to it.
When “No” Really Means “No”
When these situations arise (and you’ll know by the other person’s tone of voice, body language, etc.), the goal is to reassure the other person that you value and respect her or his boundaries.
If you leave someone who has said “No” to you today feeling good about your interaction, that same person may very well say “Yes” next time.
Use “No” as an Opportunity to Learn More
The next time you ask someone for something and they hesitate or say “No,” use that as an opportunity to talk with them about other ways they might like to help.
Another approach for reaching a win-win involves getting to “Yes” with intentional conversation.
Have you ever asked someone for help and then reshaped the request so it worked better for them? If so, share your experience in the comments below.