Do you take No for an Answer?

How to turn a No into a Yes

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Career women navigating their path inside corporations often tell tell me about something they ‘wish’ they could have or do, or be involved in.  Usually my first question is in response is “well…do they know that?” or “who have you asked about that?”  I’m often either met with a blank stare or a gasp followed by ‘I couldn’t possibly ask for it?” or “Oh I’ve asked but I’m still waiting to hear…” or “what if they say NO?”.

Well, it’s a good question.  What if they do say No?  Does it have to mean No?  Could it mean something else entirely?  Could you just quietly shrug your shoulders and say ‘So what’ and keep going?

Here’s the thing I know to be true: if you hold back, hope, hint OR if you wait until someone asks you, then you may be waiting a very long time.  You’re also more likely to see others get offered the opportunity or the very thing you wanted and do you know why?  Often because you held back and didn’t ask.  Outright.  If you stake your claim, put yourself forward, clearly ask for what you want then you open up the doors for discussion, negotiation, opportunity, conversations which would never happen if you wait.

So, let’s consider why so many women don’t ask because they fear the word No. I believe it comes from that fear of rejection or of being or feeling crushed and embarrassed by someone rejecting your idea, request or suggestion – and that will indeed stop you if you keep that fear foremost in your mind. So, what happens when you’re rejected then?  What do you do with that NO?   What do you make it mean?  Can you hear the power in that question – what do you make it mean?  You will receive a No.  More often than not, more than one.  Well, so what?  What if you just keep going?  What if you don’t make it No to you.  It’s just a No from that person.  Different.

I believe it’s either one or a combination of the following, and this is where you find that place – and give yourself permission – to keep going.

Here’s what NO can really mean:

  • Not now which can be translated as – “I haven’t got time to think about it and don’t want to think about it – ask me another time, just not today”
  • Not my responsibility – “I have no idea what to do about that and don’t want you to know so it’s easiest to say NO to you”
  • Not me – which translated would be “I don’t have a clue or I don’t want to give it to you but it’s more about me than you.”
  • Not you, really?? “I had no idea you wanted that or that it mattered to you – I need to think about it and have no idea what to say”
  • Not interested – “I’ve got too much on and I’m only really interested in what I want, not what you want – you should ask someone else”


Can you hear that NO isn’t about you, in fact it rarely is about you?

That’s how and why I encourage you to take on the next ‘No’ you receive when you ask for what you want because the first thing you hear may well be a No but…I t doesn’t have to mean a No to you.  Not anymore.  Step up and ask and, keep going.



Here’s an immediate and practical Gift of you!  A complimentary copy of “Do You Have Trouble Saying NO?”

Let me walk you through the mindsets, strategies and exact words and phrases to use to ensure you keep stronger, more assertive boundaries for yourself and your time without upsetting yourself, or the other person.  Also, you’ll receive my twice-monthly eZine filled with more tips, tools, ideas and news.



Kay White

Savvy & Influential Communication for Ambitious Women in Business,