“No.” Now what?

My wife and I had a conversation a few months ago about our daughter “not taking” a bottle. I argue that just because she “said no” to the bottle doesn’t mean that she “doesn’t take a bottle”. I believe that the way the bottle is presented is also important to the success or failure of our mission, and that presented a certain way, that “no” can be turned into a “yes.” Now we must find out what that “certain way” is. Hmmm.

Like any person’s survival instinct, a baby who “doesn’t take the bottle” will quickly change their mind when they are hungry enough. Obviously, we don’t want it to get to that, but it is a basic proof of the theory that people will set aside “no” under certain sets of circumstances. For example, someone who has been very, shall we say, picky, in dating wakes up one day and realizes that they are getting older, their “biological clock is ticking”, that they hate the prospect of spending the rest of their life dating or being alone, or any number of reasons will likely accept certain traits in a partner that they previously shouted “no!” to.

So what is someone faced with a “no” to do? Wait until the other person changes their mind? No. There’s no merit in sitting around waiting for others to dictate how your life goes. But it is important, when faced with a “no”, to be sure that we know what was said “no” to. Imagine a guy asks a girl out for dinner on Friday night. She says no. The guy claims to be “rejected” and never asks again. In reality, a hundred other explanations are just as possible. Maybe the girl wanted a) to get to know him better before going out or b) had friends around who she didn’t want to tell or c) wanted to look strong in front of them, or d) was in a bad mood, or e) doesn’t eat dinner on Friday nights, or f) or g) or h) etc… . Change any one of those variables and the guy might have gotten a yes, gotten married, had 6 kids, and lived happily ever after.

Sure, in a world where everyone is committed to and delivers complete answers, the girl’s answer would have explained what the problem with the question is and why she said no. Perhaps this amazing girl would have even told the guy what was missing to turn that “no” into a “yes”, but reality proves that most people do not consider the words they use to be of utmost importance. And, some people just like to play games to feel important, powerful, to keep the mystery, to make the guy work, etc.. etc.. etc..

Think about this when it happens to you. If you want a conversation to be effective and efficient, all members of the conversation need to help. If even one person is holding back or untruthful or unclear, the result will be harder to achieve.

Intending to say one thing and saying another is a guaranteed recipe for confusion and, in the vast majority of cases, promises that the outcome of the conversation will not look like what you had wanted to achieve when you started it. It’s obvious. If I want a pineapple but say I want a “fruit”, then even if the other person does what I ask, I can still get any number of fruits before I get a pineapple. Being specific matters.

And if we’re not saying exactly what we mean to say, then what’s the point of saying anything at all?

P.S. Happy Birthday to my very special brother.


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