by Mike Lally
Why is it far easier for many people in positions of authority to say “no” rather than “yes” when you make a simple request for something reasonable?
It is a safer position to take and by taking a negative stand and steadfastly refusing something avoids any subsequent complication if a decision backfires, particularly if the decision may compromise a set of rules.
When you face a situation where the rule book rules, it is still possible to get a positive outcome. Why not abandon what you emotionally regard as fair and reasonable and instead ask for help?
Like it or not, from time to time, we are literally forced to deal with people in difficult situations where we face the daunting task of trying to persuade somebody who is simply not prepared to listen to accept something we justifiably believe is quite reasonable.
What can you do when any appeal you make is predestined to receive a resounding, automatic “no!” Of course, you can overcome the feeling of helplessness and move on, but it is frustrating and often leaves a bitter taste.
Is there a way to deal with these dispiriting people and actually manage to get what you want? A practical, down to earth, simple process would be helpful to overturn this apparently overwhelming desire to refuse any request made. Sadly, even a semblance of compromise is frequently dismissed.
We all want to get what we want and accept this is not always possible, but what can you do when a person in a position of authority simply shakes their head with a look of triumph in their eyes?
Arguing the point and getting angry serves no purpose. This just results in strengthening the determination of the other person to dig in their heels. Ultimately, what is needed? Well, what if we had the ability to turn these natural pillars of stone into our allies?
The big question that needs to be answered is why is it far easier for some people to say “no” rather than “yes?”
Well, perhaps for many it is a safer position to take. Taking a negative stand and steadfastly refusing something avoids any subsequent complication if a decision backfires, particularly if the decision in the affirmative may compromise a set of rules.
So, best say “no” and any potential trouble will be avoided.
Where does this, perhaps understandable attitude, leave you? Maybe the best strategy to adopt if you can is to go ahead, take action, and do what you believe is best.
In other words, don’t ask for permission. If the action you take turns out to be of no concern and ignored, all well and good. But what if the action you take is deemed to break someone’s rules?
This is where it gets interesting. What should you do? Simply apologise. Ask for forgiveness. This approach seems to work surprisingly well most of the time and is a good tactic to adopt.
It seems that many people who have limited authority and the right to exercise a bit of power tend to get a bit carried away with this temporary position of strength.
Armed with a set of rules they are put in a position of powerful and the power they have been given is usually lacking in other areas of their lives. So, they perversely seem to enjoy standing their ground; after all, they are armed with a rule book.
It is tempting for these generally powerless people to doggedly take the opportunity to say “no”. Of course, the more you argue the worst it gets for you.
It seems to me they could do with a bit of transformational coaching.
When you face a situation where the rule book rules, it is still possible to get a positive outcome.
Ah, but how? If it’s a question of feeling empowered, why not abandon what you emotionally regard as fair and reasonable and instead ask for help?
Give up all forms of confrontation and frame a response along these lines: “I have a problem and I’m wondering if it would be possible for you to help me with it?”
Why does this frequently work? Well, you have preserved their position of power and status because you are still subservient to them. It is amazing how well people respond when they are asked for help.
It seems to make people feel good about themselves. To make this appeal even more positive it is wise to adopt a genuine supplicant attitude using the appropriate tone of voice and body language when you make your request.
Interestingly, you will find this approach works wonderfully well in most situations. So, bite your bottom lip, give it a go, and ask for help. Nicely, of course!