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  • Writer's pictureMalcolm De Leo

The Power of Seeking "NO"ledge



There are YES people and there are NO people. If you think about how you behave when interacting with others you will quickly fall into one of these two camps. Neither one is the best way to do things, in fact, it takes both kinds of people to make great decisions. This post isn't about simply YES people or NO people, it is about something I call NOledge which is completely different. Before I can discuss what the power of NOledge is, we must first explore the pros and cons of YES people and NO people. It is an important foundation for the power of NOledge.


Why are YES people valuable?


YES people tend to be those who are always willing to give it a go. They want to get things done and are eager to drive things forward. They like to make things happen and tend to never let the obstacles get in their way. A YES person is great when you need someone who will raise their hand, put their head down and quickly try to move from point A to point B. YES people are the optimists. YES people are the do-gooders. YES people are often the difference between moving things forward quickly and make sure things always get off the ground. YES people see possibilities everywhere. YES people are focused on their customers relentlessly because they don't want to let others down. YES people often beat the razor edge between success and failure. We need them to create the impossible and often to motivate others to move in the direction that needs to be achieved.


Why are YES people not valuable?


While YES people are great in all the ways I mentioned, not everything is bright and rosy when dealing with YES people. Often times, people mistake YES people as the more valuable type of person to have on your team, but there is also a downside to it that can't be ignored. YES people who say yes too often can find themselves overcommitted. YES people often suck at managing expectations because they want to be liked and never want to let anyone down. YES people can be more interested in being liked than getting things done and will say yes so you believe in them. YES people's optimism is often devoid of realism and in an effort to raise their hand don't think through all the things that can lead to missing the mark when the deadline is due. People who say YES are often unable to hear why something can't be done and will disregard the risks of running into the burning building. Sure it's great to say yes we can but sometimes a pause can be valuable.


Why are NO people valuable?


NO people get a bad rap. Most of the time NO people are seen as negative, blockers and too worried about failing to move things forward. NO are very important. NO people are realists. NO people are willing too often see the details no one wants to pay attention to. NO people will often keep us from missing deadlines because they have a clear idea of what it will take to hit that deadline. NO people can help others see blindspots they may not want to see. NO people live to manage people's expectations. And most importantly, NO people are the ones that keep everyone honest and stop others from believing their own bullshit. Sometimes a good NO person is worth 10 YES people if their NO gene is tempered just right. We should value NO people and appreciate their more careful view of the world.


Why are NO people not valuable?


NO people are a pain in the ass sometimes because they can't see. NO people get so caught up in their own desire to manage risk that they miss opportunities to make brilliant things happen. NO people tend to see the world from their own point of view letting either their vast knowledge, deep experience or general fear of failure keep others from moving forward. NO people can kill the momentum with their over analytical approach to deciding what is possible and what is not. NO people don't often know when all the reasons something isn't possible are not all the reasons it could be and will hold things up spoiling the potential for everyone. NO want to tell you why something is dumb before every really thinking about why it isn't. And NO people are not helpful when it seems no is about telling you I told you so every time something doesn't work out even if it does 2 out of 3 times.


What is NOledge


NOledge is about understanding the power of NO; not as weapon for stopping things but as one for creating emotional clarity in any given situation. It is having the power and inner strength of being able to hear NO when you need to.  It isn't about being a YES person or a NO person, but it is a critical skill many of us don't pay attention to in the battle of who says YES or NO too much.


Stop and think about it for a minute. When was the last time you asked for something and before anyone answered you proactively told them, "No is a perfectly OK answer to this question". That is NOledge plain and simple. Or how about before you have to have a really difficult conversation with someone, you think about the absolute worst thing they could say to you and you prepare to be OK with that scenario. You may want something different and more positive from the conversation, but by being ok with hearing the worst possible thing is you using NOledge. Why? Because in many circumstances, people want a certain outcome and don't take time to emotionally connect with the opposite outcome. And while that negative outcome is a possibility, being OK with NO or a negative outcome, keeps us calm. And at that point we open the possibility of shifting that negative outcome OR we might gain closure. This is NOledge; the state by which a person gets emotionally centered even when the worst outcome is possible. It is empowering yourself by giving other the permission to respond how they truly want to.


If you seek NOledge what will you get back?


As stated, being able to hear NO is empowering. It isn't being negative, it is being mature. It the physical manifestation of "hoping for the best, but planning for the worst" but it involves empowering of others first. And what do you get back? That is a good question. There are few things you will probably receive when you have NOledge..


  1. An honest response: Telling someone NO is an appropriate answer moves people through trying to please and often helps them be truthful, which is important if you want to manage expectations.

  2. Better results: By changing the honesty in any dialogue you will often get a different more open conversation about the problem. You have now removed your personal interests creating a situation where everyone' interests are free to be on the table.

  3. Mutual Respect: Removing the veneer in any conversation will lead to greater mutual respect because each person knows they can speak more freely. When this happen you can better understand the other person. By opening up NO, you get deeper in your relationships with others and build trust too.

  4. Inner Strength: Bringing NOledge into yourself creates a new inner strength because you learn how to become ok with whatever outcome happens. And by the way, NOledge doesn't mean you tell people they can say NO to whatever they want. It means you are learning to push the envelope on what you ask for and empowering others to not be OK with it. And that is where the inner strength comes from; the idea that you can ask for things you want and the person who you are asking can say no and everyone is OK.

Where do you start to gain NOledge?


The best place to start is to stop and think about something you want to ask for and just ask. Ask someone and before you ask do what it says above, ask and say "NO is a perfectly appropriate answer". It sounds simple but sometimes it's harder than you think. We are so afraid to hear NO, we don't ask.


But here is the thing...now think about who you are asking. NO people are programmed to say NO right away. By empowering them, you might think you are giving them the easy out, but you aren't. People who say NO a lot are often scared to say yes or feel like they always have to even when they don't want to. By giving them the out, they will probably consider your request more openly and you might get a YES.


Now imagine you are asking a YES person for something. These people feel like they always have to say YES. By telling them NO is ok, you are empowering them to really decide whether they want to or not; which is something they don't often feel they receive. Also, if a YES person says yes and they don't want to, by giving them the chance to say NO, you can really reinforce before they say yes that they don't have to.


This is NOledge and boy is it empowering. It empowers you to facilitate tough dialogues. It creates a simple emotional tool to help you manage the world around you. It creates the inner strength to be able to ask and to be able to move on if you don't get what you need.




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