Why Hearing 'No' Is Actually a Good Thing

Cindy McGovern

I once worked with someone who couldn’t handle the answer, “no.” It was a lot like dealing with a child. One day I literally saw her stomp, raise her voice and throw a book! She then spent the rest of the day trying to “rally the troops” and get other employees on her side – just to hear someone say she was right and should have gotten what she wanted. At one point, she went so far as to file a grievance against her boss. Hearing “no” was not in her skillset and really hurt her in the long run.
Whether she felt she was right or not, had she bothered to take a moment of self-reflection, she may have seen there were non-personal reasons she hadn’t gotten what she wanted.
Hearing “no” is not the worst thing in the world, in fact it can be a good thing. What might feel like rejection could actually be the opening of a door. It’s all about how you perceive the situation. If you take a moment to view the opportunities, there may be great things in the mix. Remember there is always a win-win to be had if you keep your eyes open to possibilities. Besides that, negativity will rarely bring you satisfaction or bring about the change you’re looking for.

Here’s some reality for you: You aren’t entitled to everything you want, but you can negotiate a “no” with just about everything. From your next promotion or raise to a deal with a client or agreement with a vendor, it’s all negotiable. And that means that getting a no really just means “not now.”

How do you negotiate through a no? Here are three critical pieces:

1. Change your mindset about win-lose situations. No one likes to hear a no, but that doesn’t mean someone has to lose in a negotiation, and it doesn’t have to be aggressive. The art of interest-based negotiating (if you haven’t studied up on IBN, do so right now) is realizing you and the other person both want the same thing: a good deal. So, find the win-win. How? Talk! Continue the conversation until you both discover a mutually beneficial solution.

2. Come to the table prepared. You wouldn’t take a test completely unprepared, so why would you begin negotiations without a plan? Do your research. Know what can help the other person, but also know what else is available on the market. Careful research also shows the other person how seriously you take them and respect their time – which is already a win-win.

3. Rehearse. There’s a reason I include roleplaying when I’m coaching clients – it works. Break out of your comfort zone and practice in front of the mirror, with a friend, with a colleague – or even better yet, find a mentor and practice with them. Write a script if it helps.
To reframe a “no,” realize you have a big opportunity to learn something about yourself or the situation. You get to understand why it’s a no and explore it. Ask why. Be respectful and professional and most people will share their rational.

Remember, one no doesn’t mean no to all future requests. If all you want from someone is a one-time deal, that’s all you’ll get. If you want an ongoing relationship, build on that initial no and find ways to help each other out on an ongoing basis and you’ll start hearing a lot more yeses.

Cindy McGovern, known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership. She is the author of “Every Job is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work.” Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm. For more information, please visit, drcindy.com or connect with her on Twitter (@1stladyofsales) or on LinkedIn.