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What’s another word for no?


In my first career, working with meeting planners and destination management companies, my supervisors once sat me down in the conference room.  They told me that they had received some feedback.  It was really a complaint.  Our biggest client told them that none of their staff wanted to work with me and essentially, I was too mean….  I always said no to their requests.  I was too harsh. 

We quickly made a joke of it and laughed.  Most of the time the things I was saying no to as the Director of Operations, were in the context that we could not make it to the Everglades in 30 minutes from South Beach; a physical impossibility with distance let alone traffic.  We would regularly laugh in the office about our lack of ability to bend the space-time continuum because that drive was 45 minutes to an hour on a good day! 

After laughing and realizing we needed to address the issue, my managers approached this conversation gently with me.  Not only did they let me know that they supported me, but we needed a way to change the perception others had of me that I had unintentionally created.  My motivation in being direct with immediate no’s was to not to waste time with things that were impossible.  Better to talk about what we can change, right?  But it also shut me off to consider solutions that could let us all win. Not to mention it comes off harsh for clients to always hear no first.  


In addition, the culture we had created about the joke of space-time continuum led me to believe their ridiculous requests weren’t given much thought.  The jokes had unintentionally created an “us and them” effect between vendor and client.  Not the intention of my managers.  We had a meeting so they could meet me in person, and I approached my work a bit differently from then on.  I didn’t want to be “Mean Megan”!


gnome in the flowers

As silly as it was, that complaint changed my life.  It taught me a couple of things that have changed my outlook and the successes I create to this day.

Tips for saying no

    1. Not everyone wants to get things done in as few words and actions as possible. It can be just as OR more important to build relationships first.  Consider how other people process and communicate and meet them in their territory.

    2. Simple things can go a long way towards building a good relationship. Emojis and exclamations can “say” what words cannot.  Use every tool like these in your toolkit especially when communicating through email, text, even virtual video conference. 

    3. The act of expressing gratitude is not done to increase efficiency but has a major impact on the future opportunities for efficiency. A quick “Thank You” whether in an email, on the phone, or in person gives a feeling that is irreplaceable to the recipient.  Not to mention the fact that emotions are contagious.  Make an effort to make your interactions positive. 

    4. Frontload to set expectations. If you know the answer is 100% a NO, memorize some quick responses that buy everyone a little time.  Tell them that usually things are not done that way but let me see what I can do.  Or, let me talk to my team and get back to you. 

    5. When the answer is not a popular one but the only one, give some time and space before responding. Taking the time to actually do this can help you to brainstorm solutions that are outside of a swift NO.  What if the problem were EASY to solve or if you could tweak things a little and provide a solution that was better than the original request? 


    Insight Timer survey

    Final Thoughts

    lotus in foreground

    By changing the culture of the company, how we handled requests, and in essence how we treated our clients more as partners than opportunities for money, we created an environment where they would give us more opportunities.  If they had a client that they knew wouldn’t go for what we offered, they would still give us a call.  Sometimes, we could adjust.  And sometimes we had an opportunity to educate everyone on the standards we had set for our experiences and why that was important.  We could stick to our morals AND create more positive experiences for more people.  A true win-win.

    I look back to those days and realize another nugget of gold.  For a long time, I looked around and saw that most of the people in that business of corporate America were overstressed and overly competitive.  It was all about being on top and being a little overworked.  The more stressed out you were the more important you were.  I might have even taken on this unnecessary and evil mindset to fit in and demonstrate that I too, was working hard. 


    “What if it were easy”?

    I recently read (actually listened to on Audible) a book called Effortless by Greg McKeown.  In it he talks about how we tend to think that amazing things should be hard to achieve and take a lot of effort.   Thinking that if it is worth anything it should take time and overcome many hurdles.  He flips the script in asking, what if we look at it from another angle and what if the solution were actually easy?  Where are we overcomplicating things?  And where could you get massive results with little effort?

    In looking at this situation of stopping ourselves from saying “No” and moving on, if we look at it from this angle, we get a whole new perspective.  No one wants to hear “No” immediately anyway.  So, what if we take the time and say, “let me ponder”, and then get back to them?  If you take that time to ponder then consider the alternatives.  Consider how you or they are overcomplicating things.  And if nothing comes of it, perhaps the next completely different idea will be better than the original.



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    When determining what will bring the most value to your time investment, I have found companies and non-profits of all sizes have a need for clarity of priorities.  

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