Why Saying “No” in Business is a Secret Superpower

Why Saying “No” in Business is a Secret Superpower

ANDs Vs. ORs

Saying “no” in business can be extremely difficult. In conversations with my leadership teams and other business partners, I often refer to things as ANDs and ORs. I use this to make sure that we are all on the same page, and to determine if what we are doing is in addition to the things we are currently doing, or as a replacement. When running a business (or a team/household) you would be surprised how effective it is to call that out. At first, it will piss some people off because it forces them to hear their choice out loud. People like to try to create hidden ambiguity to hide behind later. It’s sort of an escape hatch that humans do without knowing.

Of all the obstacles that hold people back, the inability to kill off things is probably the top of the list. There are some fancy terms for this like the sunk cost fallacy, but it goes much deeper than that. As much discussion as the sunk cost fallacy gets, it’s actually not nearly the biggest challenge.


Saying ''No'' in Business Feels Personal

People simply have a hard time killing off their personal, little babies. It doesn’t necessarily matter what their baby is, just the fact that it’s theirs is the reason they want to keep it. This could be an idea, a current project, a client, or a process they like. No matter how evident it is that it should be killed, they cling onto their thing tighter than a middle-aged man does his thirties.

It’s hard to spot this at times because people hide their emotional (irrational) response with made-up rationalization very well. When it comes to other people’s ideas, processes, or approaches, people are like some evil version of Judge Judy – quick to point out every little fracture and flaw. However, when it comes to their own opinions, they suddenly turn into Johnny Cochran. One of my very biggest pet peeves in life is how quickly people jump to the defensive on every little thing. It’s as if someone is peeing on their little hill all the time.

To do anything different at all (to grow, to evolve, to change) there has to be casualties. It’s just part of the deal. At some point, the number of ANDs runs out, and anything you suggest should be paired with “and to do this, we will stop X”. If not, we are just wasting our time.

Some of these are fairly easy to spot but most of these are subtle.

Out With The Old To Be In With The New

Sometimes you have to kill off old friends, relationships, and possibly even customers because they do not serve the purpose you have for yourself, or for your business, going forward.

Sometimes you have to kill comfort because all the neat stuff happens outside of your comfort zone.

Sometimes you have to kill off the very talents and skills that have been so successful because what got you here, many times, is not what will get you to the next phase.

Sometimes you have to kill off short-term progress, knowing that it’s okay to go back a bit to find a better path up.

Sometimes, you have to say “no” to money because there are more important goals than a new car.

Recovering ''Yes Man''

I’ve always been known as a “yes man”. In general, I’m one that has been open to pretty much anything in both business and personal circumstances. However, over the years, that came with a price. Years ago, I had to start learning to say “no”. I would be lying if I said that it was easy. It goes against my nature to help people and love life, but every day I try to get better at it. Always saying “yes” is much more selfish than altruistic (or helpful) that people want to admit.

However, the more I’ve said “no” in recent years, the better things have gotten. No matter how hard it has been, almost every time I’ve killed off something, I’ve been happy that I did. Saying “no” in business or in life is a true superpower and if you really want to be helpful to others, you would tell them “no” more as well.

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