Co-authored by Andrew Carlson

When used appropriately, “No” can be our most powerful tool. Truly powerful “no” users employ it in the following ways:

No, but…

… we could always try ‘x.’

We don’t need to be a yes-(wo)men or flip-flop on our opinions but we do need to give reasonable alternatives to the desired course of action. Simply saying ‘no’ without any follow up leaves the decision completely one sided and prevents actual collaboration.

By providing an alternative we’re showing that we do care about the problem at hand and are actively looking to come to a compromise.

I don’t know…

… but I’ll find out for you!

Saying that we don’t know the answer to something can show humility. The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know everything. However, we are very willing to learn.

No, because…

… x, y, z.

Talking others through our thought process will help them to understand where we are coming from. They still may not agree with us, but they will better understand us. The ability to back up our opinions with facts, experience and a logical position is critical when speaking with someone who expects us to be experts in our given field and instills trust in our knowledge.

Not right now…

… there are higher priorities

Many times a specific course of action isn’t incorrect, it is just not timely. Taking that same course of action at a later date may prove beneficial.

In addition to the specific language used, the following “Nos” will also help:

  • No Nonsense – Don’t be wishy-washy. Own the “No”. this is a great way for you to emphasize your role as an expert.
  • No Pride – Strong Opinions, Loosely Held. Recognize quickly when you are incorrect. It isn’t too late to change the “no” to a “yes”