One day, I was visiting customers in another city with the Dealer for that city. After completing the meetings scheduled for the morning, we stopped for lunch. Just as we were about to enter the restaurant, my Dealer received a call on his mobile phone. He requested me to enter and be seated while he attended to the call.

When he joined me a few minutes later, he complained, “This mobile phone has made my life miserable! With around 15 customers having called me in the last four hours, I’ve not been able to concentrate on my work. I think I should switch off my mobile phone. Don’t you agree?”

I replied, “You and I have been meeting customers since yesterday morning. In some of your telephonic conversations yesterday, the callers requested you to send them quotations yesterday itself. You knew that you would be busy visiting customers with me yesterday and today. This means you can start sending quotations only tomorrow. You should have told yesterday’s callers this. Instead, you agreed to send them quotations yesterday itself.

Today, the same customers called, expressed unhappiness about the fact that they have not yet received the promised quotations, and demanded that you send the quotation today. Again, instead of telling them that you will send the quotations tomorrow, you agreed to send them quotations today.

Tomorrow, the same customers will call you and blast you even more for not sending them the quotations today despite promising to do so.

My friend, your misery has not been caused by your mobile phone. With all due respect, your inability or unwillingness to say “No” is the only cause of your misery.”

The word No is a negative word, but the ability to say No when one means No is one of the keys to happiness.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. – Mahatma Gandhi


24 thoughts on “No

  1. Most people do not realize that clients understand and appreciate it when you keep them informed. It is better to be honest than please them with false promises. More damage in the long run. And at some crucial time, it turns into the boy who cried wolf story!

    🙂 Nice post!

    • For some reason, it is considered impolite not to say “Yes.” That’s why people make commitments without even thinking about whether they can keep those commitments.
      “Not possible” or “Difficult, but I’ll try” may displease the other person momentarily, but it’s better in the long run.

  2. It’s not merely saying “No”. It’s a matter of mind set. No one forces an immediate response, more particularly on a cell phone. Just putting in a short sms response giving the time frame for action could save the botheration of constant harassment. When the mobile is on silent mode during meetings the caller will necessarily have to send a message and one can respond thereafter. What was happening in the pre-cell era?

  3. As they say Honesty is the best policy. If I were the client I would think that if you cannot carry out a simple task of sending quotations on time then how will you be able to deliver the goods on time once ordered. It creates a kind of doubt on the person/ company’s ability. I’ve had this exp. where I’ve been asked to complete certain projects by a set date, on telling the boss it’s not possible to do so without cutting down on safety & project quality they said no problem, just do it. I refused & someone else was appointed. But the clients were very disappointed with the end result & the company lost that client.

    • ‘Just do it’ or ‘Kuch karo, yaar’ is part of the ‘Chaltaa hai’ culture.

      Cutting down on safety and/or quality may help to meet delivery commitments, but are very dangerous in the long term.

    • Corinne, I remember quite a few bloggers, including you, had posted, ’11 Things Every Woman Should Write Down Before the Year Ends’ around December 31, 2013. Most had mentioned ‘learning to stand up for myself’ as something they’d finally learnt to do or as something they want to learn to do.

      Saying ‘No’ is, in certain situations, the same as standing up for oneself.

  4. very true..Indians never say no, but that doesnt mean they are genuine, only they are not frank enough or they are fake…mostly people want a good reputation and to conform they will say yes, but a good reputation doesnt come with fake yes, rather with genuine no..

  5. This is the second lovely post I am reading today on saying no when needed. Don’t say yes when you want to say no – that way people will appreciate you better. Yes, this is a problem, specifically for us, Indians as we think saying no is bad. We have learnt it now over time and in contrast, are getting more respect. Otherwise customers won’t feel confident on “yes” if they are not honored at the end of the day. Nice and crisp post.

  6. It is not a lesson to be learnt easily, the saying ‘No’ thing. But that’s rewarding in the long run, because when people understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘No’, they respect us even more. Also, we will be able to accept it when the same ‘No’ comes from someone else, as we might be able to read their PoV.

  7. Very true words – but ones that, I think, are not easy for the average Asian to apply. Far more than in my culture, the urge to please another when you know it is impossible to carry out what you have promised is almost overwhelming for most Asians I have met. Can such a culture counter revolution take place do you think?

    • Absolutely correct, Ken! Disagreement is viewed as disrespect.
      The Asians who have learnt to say ‘No’ must encourage those around them to say ‘No’. They must learn that it is not disrespectful to say ‘No’.
      In the workplace, I’ve encouraged my juniors to say ‘No’ to me when they think they should. I faced immense resistance at first, but I started pulling up people for not saying ‘No’ when they should have. Slowly, people started learning to say ‘No’, but they always preface it with an apologetic “Sorry to say this, ..” or “Please don’t get me wrong, ..” or “Please don’t mistake me, ..”. Reminds me of the Sikh gentleman in the TV series “Mind your language” who always starts with “Thousand apologies! …”

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