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More on Navigating the 'No'

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

Have you ever unintentionally created conflict or stress with your words? Or inadvertently moved a conversation backward instead of forward?

Here's an example:

You ask a friend if she can come over at 5 o'clock, and she starts telling you all of the reasons why she can’t make it at 5.

“I can’t be there at 5 because after work I need to stop at the store and go home and change.”

To you, it starts to sound like excuses, and it feels draining.

Wouldn’t it be easier if your friend just said,“Can’t wait to see you. The soonest I can be there is 6 o’clock” ?

Can you feel the difference?

Doesn't the easy reframe – “Can’t wait to see you. The soonest I can be there is 6" – feel so much better?

In earlier blog posts, I explained why "no" is one of the words on my office's Do-Not-Say List and discussed some of the ways to communicate "no" to customers and clients without actually saying the word "no." You can check out two of those blog posts here and here.

Eliminating the word "no" from conversations is tough, so I want to build out on my earlier blog posts with the following suggestion:

If you're struggling to eliminate the word "no," focus on moving your conversations forward by only stating what you need or can do. Focusing on the next steps is key.

Here's an example from our office:

Scenario: A consumer calls our office wanting a letter with information on how to pay. Collection notices were already sent in the mail.

Years ago, that call might have gone like this...

Consumer: "Can you send me something in the mail?"

Collector: "No. We already sent you a series of notices. It’s time for you to pay the account." (Sometimes collectors would even begin to recite the dates the letters were sent.)

Once we started thinking about how we could move the conversation forward and eliminate the word "no," this is what we came up with instead...

Collector: "That’s great that you are ready to pay your account. I am happy to provide you with all of the necessary information to mail your payment to our office. In fact, as soon as we receive your payment in full, we will be updating the credit bureaus within 30 days."

Can you see how this response moved the conversation forward instead of backward?

Here is some additional phrasing to consider...

Instead of saying "That's not possible," start saying, "What I can suggest is..."

Instead of saying "I'm not sure," start saying, "Please let me place you on hold while I do some research."

I get that it can feel a little strange to avoid the word “no” and not explain why your answer is “no,” but consider this: Everything you say to a customer or client is either bringing you closer or driving you apart. If your goal is to have a positive connection with that person, these examples are worth considering.

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