Yes, the title of this Simple Note is meant to be the way it is!

The word ‘No’ in all languages has deep and evocative meanings, and triggers a range of responses linked to our associations to the past and how we use it today. As words go, I notice that ‘No’ is peerless in its ability to assert power.

When you were growing up ‘No’ was likely to have been the boundary and preventer, the scalder or the shamer. As you grew up it became the line beyond which it would be deemed wrong to pass. It won’t take long to tune in to moments from your past and hear again your ‘No’ memories.

I was working with a team recently and suddenly noticed the frequent use of ‘No’ by a couple of team members in a client dialogue. I turned my awareness specifically to the process than followed.  Each time ‘No’ was voiced, even in its most innocent use, there was a palpable and often physically obvious response with the listeners. Much of its use in language is so casual and habitual, “Oh no”; “No way”; No, no, I meant this…”; but the impact, particularly the accumulated impact remains the same.

For the next few hours or meetings you attend, have a go at listening out for it and notice the reactions.

Putting aside any deeper psychological or emotional reactions, the physical and verbal ‘No’ responses range from:

  • Facial disappointment / varying displays of ‘crest-fallen’
  • A combative reply
  • Resistance
  • Stubbornness
  • Stiffening of body position
  • Detachment (from the subject or the person)
  • Disconnection

So here, in this Simple Note I am alerting you to the not-so-hidden impact of using the word ‘No’. Perhaps unbeknown to you, you are causing responses that are unhelpful in relationships, slowing down or hindering progress and flow, causing schisms in teams. Repeated use may even be distancing you and your content from your audience.

With your awareness on you can notice ‘No’ from others, then in your own dialogues, and then begin working on reducing its occurrence and then shifting to a better option… Saying No Nicely!

Keep It Simple


PS – Saying No Nicely can often start by saying ‘yes’