Column: Know before saying ‘no’

Posted 3/7/23

There is an old saying, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” or, “If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.” Many times these are associated with salespeople who stopped short of …

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Column: Know before saying ‘no’


There is an old saying, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” or, “If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.” Many times these are associated with salespeople who stopped short of asking their prospect for the order or fail to ask for critical information or an immediate next step. However, these sayings hold true for all of us.

For some, asking comes very naturally. We understand the consequences of not asking so we are always bold enough to speak up, knowing that fortune favors the bold. Then there are others of us who have a deeply rooted fear of rejection so asking for something, anything requires us to summon our courage before breaking out into a cold sweat while meekly and nervously uttering out our question.

There is also something else at play here when it comes to hearing the word “no,” or being refused a request. Some people are so tired and burnt out that the word “no” has become their first response to everything. Even the simplest of asks or tasks is met with resistance. The smallest requests are seen as monumental hills to climb. The thinking is that the person making such a request clearly has no idea just how much work this is going to require or how difficult it will be.

Saying “no” for some folks has become an art form, they can say “no” and still have the person who asked walk away feeling good. Others may subscribe to the philosophy of saying “no” to everything as fast as possible so others will stop asking them for anything. The first word out of their mouth is literally always “no.”

Here’s the thing, sometimes we get so conditioned to saying “no” that it really has become our first response instead of first taking the time to learn more, so we know what it is that we are really saying “no” to or refusing to do. I do believe in saying “no” to more of the things we shouldn’t be doing so that we can say “yes” to more of the things we should or could be doing. However, not at the expense of missing an opportunity to get done what needs to get done.

If you are leading a team, you probably wouldn’t want them to stop coming to you with questions. If you are a part of a team, you also wouldn’t want to be left out of opportunities to collaborate and problem solve. And any parent certainly wouldn’t want their child to stop coming to them with questions or requests, instead, just taking actions into their own hands and dealing with the consequences later. When the “no” monster inside of us is unleashed, we invite contempt and disharmony in any relationship.

Years ago, I had a coworker named Frank. Frank would say “no” to everything at first. But not for the reasons mentioned above or that you might be thinking. He taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life when it came to decision-making relative to both the person asking for something and the person being asked. He would say “no” if the request wasn’t supported with the “why.” Or Frank would say “no” if the person asking didn’t really understand everything involved in what they were asking for.

What Frank taught me and I hope to pass along to you is this: Before saying “no,” take the time to ask more questions and get as much detail as possible before making your decision. And before you ask for anything, know the “why” behind your request, and what it is you are really asking the other person or team to do for you.

Are you saying “no” simply out of habit? Is the “no” monster hurting your relationships at home or at work? Do you understand the concept of including your “why” behind your request? I would love to hear your story at, and when we can take the time to know before we say “no,” it really will be a better than good life.

Michael Norton is an author, a personal and professional coach, consultant, trainer, encourager and motivator of individuals and businesses, working with organizations and associations across multiple industries.

life coaches in denver, michael norton, motivational coaches, life/work balance coach


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