How hard is it for you to just say no?


It’s always interesting to me that people find it hard to say “no”.  I am talking about the people that don’t say yes, either.  Right, you know what I’m talking about.  If you have been in business for any length of time you have come across people who just can’t say no but they don’t say yes.

Many believe that when you never respond that it should be accepted as the universal “no”.

Yet, just saying no from the beginning would save so much time and money.  I believe saying no should be considered a standard of excellence in conducting oneself with professional etiquette.  I would guess that most people would appreciate that response and see it as a respectful gesture that you don’t want to waste anyone’s time including your own.

Say no, if you’re not interested…

Say no, if you’re don’t want the person on the other end to call you back…

Say no, if you don’t want emails and voice mails clogging your inbox...

But for some reason, the majority of us just can’t say no.  I did some research on this topic only to find out that this phenomenon has been talked about and written about at exhaustive levels; but mostly about people who always say “yes”.  An article written by Hank Davis from Psychology Today put it best “…they are far more comfortable having your request die of old age than actually refusing it.  They’ll leave it for you to figure out whatever it was you wanted just ain’t gonna happen”.

Really?  Just say “no thank you”.

Here’s my top 5 reasons why we just can’t say no. They are:

1.      The Universal language of “no”

 By not responding you get the message. (We already talked about this which I believe is the #1 reason.)

2.      Avoiding Tension/Conflict

Uncomfortable saying no because we don’t want tension or conflict.  

3.      Hedging our Bets

Thinking about the issue because we don’t want to entirely close the door because it’s just like the lottery “you never know”

4.      Too Busy

Believing that we are too busy to stop and take the time to respond. 

5.      Not Relevant

It’s just not relevant to our business/being.  (This is the most justifiable reason but still just respond “no”.)

focusing is about saying no
— Steve Jobs

That makes a lot of sense intellectually; and, admittedly, I’m not a psychologist (even though I did consider Psychology as a Minor in undergraduate for a moment).  But it’s my guess that it’s more of an emotionally-driven non-response.

Either way, like the lyrics of a popular song “say something or I’m giving up on you”.  But, wouldn’t it be so much easier to just say “no”?


Sonya Ruff Jarvis, is the Managing Member of Jarvis Consultants and Founder of the eRetailer Summit. Sonya has extensive experience in creating original innovative solutions to overcome major business challenges.  Sonya has spent most of her career visiting headquarters across global industries and has built strong business relationships across diverse brands. 

Sonya has a M.B.A. in Marketing. She is married and has a daughter and they live in Fairfield County Connecticut.  

Follow Sonya on twitter at @jarvisconsult or @eretailersummit

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