The Value of “No”

Throughout our careers I am sure we have all had instances when we wished we had said something other than what we actually did say. For me these “I wish I had…” events normally revolved around saying something other than “No” to a request, when “No” was the right answer.

The value of saying “No” is a very underrated concept. There is a book, “The Art of Worldly Wisdom” by a seventeenth century Spanish monk by the name of Baltasar Gracion, that is a collection of three hundred aphorism’s that are designed to help one make their way in the world and achieve distinction. It is amazing how much of a document written close to four hundred years ago is still applicable.

In his book Gracion deals with the idea of saying “No”. He says: “Know how to say “no”. You can’t grant everything to everybody. Saying “no” is as important as granting things, especially among those in command. What matters is the way you do it. Some people’s “no” is prized more highly than the “yes” of others: a gilded “no” pleases more than a curt “Yes”…..”

As you can see being able to say “No” has been a recognized issue for at least 400 years, if not more. Gracion points out that no one can do it all, but how you say “No” is important. Too firm, or too often and people may not come back to ask you again. The rule of saying “no” can be applied with our business and customers and in other aspects of our lives as well.

Delivering satisfaction, be it to the Board of Directors, senior management, or to customers requires that we set expectations appropriately. By not saying “No” when appropriate, you can be construed as having provided a tacit “Yes”. This may result in an unattainable level of expectation, and a considerable level of dissatisfaction, which is a particularly bad situation to be in when it comes to your customers.

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