Know How to ‘No’
The art of how-to and when-to say ‘NO’ by Prashant Gopalakrishnan, Executive Vice President & National Business Head.
As advertisers, we all wear our hearts on our sleeves. We love to react (and to see reactions). And this COVID life or the ‘New Normal’ has just amplified our need for reactions. It’s made us impatient and less tolerant. Closed, to things around us. To the people around us. Our days can become far less complicated if we know how to react right. Tact: that’s the key. We, Gen Z, and millennials value our social media skills more than our social skills. Dealing with empathy, understanding each other’s perspectives, talking rather than texting, figuring our differences, and reaching an understanding — not a compromise, but an understanding is not our priority. But to put our POV out there for the world to see, definitely is. Looks like we can do with some social listening of some good, smart social skills.
We hate it when we are flashed with a ‘NO’. It instantly induces a negative chemical reaction in our brains. We start over-thinking about it. ‘Who the hell is he to say NO?’ ‘Whatever the task, the answer is NO!’ ‘No point going there. It’s going to be a NO!’, do we run into the danger of becoming typecast as a ‘NO’ person too soon? Is there a way we can be more aware of how-to, and when to ‘NO’? Are we saying ‘NO’ the right way? Can our ‘NO’ have more empathy? Can our ‘NO’ not tick people off? Contrary to this, can it make them feel that we did our best? Should be possible, right? It’s not rocket science. It’s just understanding human-psychology and caring about the people you work with.
Start by —
- Understanding the problem statement before saying NO: Many times, what the real issue is vs what is required from you is disconnected because it is the POV of one person. Work with them to analyze the problem statement. You may realize that you don’t even have to work on it. It just requires a lateral solution. Let me illustrate with an example we use quite often, when a new client comes to us saying that they need a pitch in a week, we often turn them down. Not by saying ‘NO’, but by giving them the option of working on a project together rather than a pitch. It gives us a chance to understand our chemistry and also gives me or you the option to opt-out if things don’t work out as planned. Now imagine a ‘NO’ would have put an end to our chances of ever working on the brand. On the other hand, even if they don’t do a project with us, they will know that we are solution-oriented, and not just someone who instinctively says ‘NO’.
So it’s imperative that you are…
2. Thinking through your NO: Sometimes, in spite of knowing right at the top that the answer is a definite ‘NO’; be it for an impractical deadline or a candidate you want to hire or even a creative idea, you need to recognize the blood and sweat that’s gone behind it. By a client / by HR, by your colleague, or be it, anyone. Don’t just blurt out a ‘NO’. Deliberate on it. Give it a few hours. And then reason out why the answer is ‘NO’. Half the time, it’s not about you saying ‘NO’. It’s about how you said it.
Also once you say ‘NO’…
3. Follow up on your NO: Saying ‘NO’ and yet, managing to keep your rapport alive and kicking is a skill. What really helps here is empathy. The receiver needs to know why you are saying NO. They need to feel you want to do it, but can’t. Once the NO has been delivered, it’s your job to follow up on what happened to it. How did that person make it happen? Now that you have the bandwidth, can you help them? It goes a long way in showcasing the empathy you have towards them. Also, know how to soften the blow of a ‘NO’.
You’ll realize that a…
4. NO over a call is more impactful than a NO over text: A ‘NO’ is a break-up. It’s always taken better when spoken rather than texted. People do not understand the tonality of a ‘NO’ when on text. For all you know, you want to tell the person that you can’t do it right away, but it’s not taken that way. People read out the ‘NO’ mimicking as if you said it. And chances are they got it wrong. So, a ‘NO’ over video call is better than a ‘NO’ over an audio call is better than a ‘NO’ over WhatsApp.
But if you have to use WhatsApp, especially on groups…
5. Reply Privately, with your NO: A ‘NO’ especially on groups can be a tough one. Whatsapp gives you an option to reply privately. It helps. And then close the loop on the group saying “We spoke”. You’ll see it’s surprisingly helpful. It also helps de-escalate a ‘NO’. Since you initiated a one on one, the response will invariably be a one on one.
Of course, don’t make saying ‘NO’ a habit…
6. Earn your NO: A simple trick. Always have that leverage. Make things happen 3 times out of 4 times. So the 1 time you say ‘NO’, they take you seriously and don’t question you. The way you do it can be customized. In my case, most of my clients know that when I say “I’ll try”, it means I’ll get it done. Because in my head I have a way around it. When I say ‘this cannot happen’, right at the top of my head (the 1 out of 4 times), they respect that.
Now that you have earned your ‘NO’…
7. Use your NOs wisely: Save it for the day you really need it. Hustling our way to get something done is our thing in advertising. So hustle away, and save your ‘NOs’ for a really bad day. For a long weekend. Save your NO for that extra 2 days leave that you want to give your team. Cherish it. Let it be the leverage that you have.
These may come across as absolutely basic things one can do. They are exactly, just that. It does not require a personality transformation to say ‘NO’. You do not need to become a bad person or an insensitive person. You just need to know how to ‘NO’ correctly. Because as the great mathematician Pythagoras once said, “the oldest, shortest words — ‘yes’ and ‘no’ — are those which require the most thought.