Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Molly Gordon.
Some possibilities show up only after we are told “no.” My own coaching practice grew out of the gift of “no” from a flagging wearable-art business. We’ve all heard countless stories about artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, and others who created their greatest successes in response to resounding “no’s.”
In order to engage the possibilities latent in “no,” we need to look at the tendency to avoid asking questions that might generate “no” as a response.
As a lifelong practitioner of the art of self-sufficiency, I sometimes think I wrote the book on avoiding requests that might not be fulfilled. In fact, the only thing I have avoided more assiduously than asking for something I might receive is asking for something I might be denied.
What I have learned is that the cost of not making requests exceeds the benefit. For one thing, when we avoid making requests, we close the door to getting what we want. For another, we design lives of exhaustion by doing everything ourselves. Still, anticipating “no” can hold us back. That’s why it’s important to understand that “no” does not limit our options so much as it expands them.
The Difference Between Requesting and Demanding
Consider this. The ability to make a request and hear “no” is a building block of successful relationships. When we make a demand, “no” signifies a break in relationship and the end to possibility. When we make requests, however, we assume the possibility that we will be told “no,” without assuming that we will have to abandon the relationship as a result.
In addition, when we get a “no” in response to our requests, a world of possibilities emerges that we could not even imagine beforehand. For instance, a client asks to reschedule a session on a few hours’ notice. I say “no.” Here are just a few possibilities that might emerge from that “no”:
- My “no” is a permission slip for this person to practice saying “no” to others.
- My “no” shows us that we want to revise our schedule for other weeks.
- Skipping a week might create much-needed space in the client’s calendar and with that space a sense of abundance.
- Knowing that I take care of myself by saying “no” when I need to, my client feels confident that she can make requests of me without imposing.
- My client realizes that she wants a different style or program of coaching.
- This “no” reveals other situations in which the client has problems around time.
None of these possibilities are better or worse than the possibilities that existed before “no” was said. The point is that a new world has arisen from “no,” and we have choices about how we engage with and interpret that new world.
There’s No Point in Anticipating the Future
Another advantage of understanding how “no” generates new possibilities is that we do not need to strategize endlessly (“What will I do if…?”) before making a request. We can relax because we recognize that we will be in a different world after we get our answer, whatever that answer is. While we may speculate about that world, we do well to leave room for the unexpected and unanticipated opportunities that unfold with it.
The implications of accepting “no” are extensive. If we make requests only when we fully expect a “yes,” our possibilities are limited to what we can maneuver others into granting us. In addition, we are haunted by the sense that something is missing. What’s missing is passion and the keenness of feeling and sharpened desire that show up when we are as willing to face disappointment as we are to gain satisfaction.
If you are feeling like the music of your life is somehow muffled, take a look at the requests you are making and how you hold the possibility of “no.” Then make some daring requests.
You’ll discover that there are riches in “no” beyond your wildest dreams. (Tweet this.)
Molly Gordon has been a life and business coach since God was a toddler (actually, since 1996). Her clients come from around the world and all walks of life. Spiritually and psychologically savvy, they are often seeking to make a bigger contribution to the world while creating their right livelihood. Molly is the author of “The Way of the Accidental Entrepreneur: How to Close the Gap Between the Work You Love and the Income You Want.”