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What to Do When Someone Says ‘No’

Certainly, we have all faced rejection in our lives. We would not appreciate our success nearly as much if we hadn’t faced our challenges. And much of the success we accomplish is due to the obstacles that we face. How many? How big are they? Our ability to persevere through these challenges is key to our success. I firmly believe that the bigger the obstacles, the greater the number of them that we face, and the more perseverance required, all leads to the amount of success and significance that one will find.

‘No’ #1

In my previous corporate career as an engineer, my first biggest challenge was in selecting a job that did not provide me with enough say in the direction that it took. I worked in materials, and the product engineer had significantly more say in what we would work on or evaluate. I could bring a big cost saving idea to the table, but if it was deemed as too risky then the answer was “no.” You see, if there was a performance issue, it was the product engineer’s responsibility to face the customer if something went wrong - it was not our current practice to involve the materials engineer.

‘No’ #2

Another time, when our plant was reported as being the number one polluter in the state due to the solvents used in our manufacturing process, I was tasked with an environmental project to reduce reportable emissions. As a result, we evaluated the use of different solvents in our processes. Different solvents have different odors. For example, water is the biggest solvent in the world. It is used to make coffee, hot chocolate, etc. Mineral spirits is another. Water and mineral spirits have significantly different odors. In our manufacturing process, the change in odor was arising as an issue - both inside the plant (people) and outside the plant (community). As a result, I found a reodorant (ie. a perfume, vanilla flavor) that could be added to make things more acceptable to the nose. One of the product engineers did months of testing to verify it did not affect product life performance. I was certain that he was not going to approve the change. I was dealing with a “no,” or at least an impending “no” from this angle. And in the manufacturing environment, the change was challenged because of the perception that the original bad smell must mean that it is bad for my health, and what is “management” trying to do? (Actually, healthwise, the change in solvent was significantly less hazardous. Besides, when one doesn’t believe that the earth is not flat, it takes a while to accept sailing off to the new world.)

Change is difficult. Rarely do we like change unless we can see the advantage(s) and we are unafraid of the risk(s) involved. In the first situation, change was not easily accepted because of the risk of fear of facing the customer. And in the case of reducing impact to the environment, change was difficult because of the Law of the Lens. Those opposed could only see how the change affected (or could possibly affect them) personally. Rarely, did the persons from these perspectives want to look at the company perspective. (That’s ok, the change is still in place 22 years later.)

Believe IT!

Currently, one of my favorite stories of success and the magnitude of such is Jamie Kern Lima. I highly recommend her book, Believe IT! She faced significant obstacles in her life, both in number and in size only to eventually sell her company for $1.2 billion, and become the first female CEO in company history. She faced the word ‘No’ more times than I think I could handle.

What to Do When Someone Says ‘No’

Of course, success never comes without challenges, failures, and especially those that tell us “No.” Being told “No,” is a test on whether we want it badly enough - whatever “It” is. I appreciate the reminder that if “It” were easy, everyone would be doing it. Recognizing these challenges adds to the sense of accomplishment. This challenge also reminds me of a quote from Karen Quinones Miller: “When someone tells me ‘No.’ It doesn’t mean that I can’t do it. It simply means that I can’t do it with them.” I humbly say “Thanks” to those of you who have given me my “No’s” during life, as that is what has made me stand tall and muster the courage to say “Yes!” for myself.

“When someone tells me ‘No.’ It doesn’t mean that I can’t do it. It simply means that I can’t do it with them.” Karen Quinones Miller

Additionally, there is nothing like making a difference with people who want to make a difference at a time that makes a difference. Let me know if we can get together to change your “No” to a “YES!” in a complimentary Discovery session.


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