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1-Page Summary of The Power of a Positive No

No, Thanks. I’d Rather Not Die from Your Blue Plate Special

A senior executive had to travel a lot, so he ate out frequently. He was diagnosed with a heart condition that made it dangerous for him to eat butter or oil. So every time he ordered food at restaurants, he asked the server or chef not to use those ingredients in his meal. Unfortunately, many servers and chefs ignored his requests because they thought he was just being difficult. They didn’t realize how serious the situation really was; anyone might get angry if their life were on the line!

A man was having a lot of trouble with his heart. His doctor told him that he’d have to stop eating butter or oil, or else he would die. However, the man didn’t want to give up those things completely; so instead, when people served him food cooked in oil or butter, he drew a picture of his cardiovascular system on a napkin and explained why it wasn’t good for him if he ate any more of those kinds of foods. The servers ended up being very helpful because they liked how polite and respectful the man was about asking them not to make any more fatty meals for him.

The executive included a positive message that supported his self-interests: health and well-being. This combination constitutes a “Positive No.” To stand up for yourself, you must be able to say no without harming the relationships involved. Most people have difficulty doing this because they don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings by saying no. They let others walk all over them instead of standing up for themselves. You can learn how to say no in a way that enhances your relationships rather than ruining them by practicing this technique so you can use it whenever necessary.

The “Three A’s”

It’s often difficult to decline a request. It can be seen as giving up on yourself, and it may even make you an enemy of the person who made the request. The best way to decline is by using one of three strategies:

  1. People give in even when they know better. They say yes to things that they don’t want, and this hurts them in the long run. It just leads to more fighting. This is why people who are pushy win a lot of battles because no one wants to fight with them over getting what they want.

  2. Some people say no in an offensive manner, without considering the consequences. They use it as a weapon to attack people and burn bridges behind them.

  3. “Avoidance” – You don’t give a direct answer. Instead, you hope the issue will go away. It won’t.

“Yes! No. Yes?”

Many people think saying no is a power game or that it will ruin relationships. However, you can still say no and maintain your relationship. A positive “no” means you are standing up for yourself while preserving the relationship. It’s a balanced tactic of saying yes to some things and no to others.

For instance, you can refuse a request from your boss if you have made plans with your family. Start by saying “yes” to the project and then state that you won’t be available on weekends. Next, offer an alternative solution by asking if it’s possible to work on this project during regular hours instead of over the weekend. Finally, ask for confirmation that everyone is in agreement about working on this project during regular hours.

Respect is important in any relationship. You show respect for yourself by standing up for your own needs and desires. At the same time, you show that you respect others by saying no to things that are not important to you. A positive “no” starts with a deeper yes, which affirms your values and shows why you’re saying no. Here are some tactics to help convey this:

The Power of a Positive No Book Summary, by William Ury