Self help gurus may entice you to learn to say no, but is that going to really get you anywhere in business?
In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn says YES to answering the question.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo your guest host for this edition of Tough Things First, the podcast with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. Hello, again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Well, good to have you again with us, Rob. You’re always a delight to talk to and have you on these podcasts.
Rob Artigo: Thank you, Ray. This idea of learning to say no has a lot of supporters. It’s out there. I’ve seen it in several forms. I know that somebody’s famous for having written whole books about it. These supporters of you’ve got to learn to say no, say we should learn to say no. Many of us, apparently, don’t have that skill, so we need to learn it. Do you buy that idea?
Ray Zinn: On the surface, no. Some of the people that I know that have written on this subject really never have run a company before. I think this whole notion that you should just say no is just a cop-out and I don’t buy into it. It’s, I think, somebody just trying to sell some books or just trying to sell a notion because it tingles in their ear. So if you’re a person who would like to say no, you’re going to say no anyway, you don’t need somebody to tell you just to learn to say no. It just made you feel better for somebody to say, “Just say, no.”
And so, to me, it’s really the people that buy into it are the ones who believe in that concept, and I’m not sure we’re going to change anybody’s mind when we talk about the concept of just say no, but for those of you who also adopt out feeling on the subject, that just saying no is not a good thing because you don’t know how it’s going to impact the other person. No one likes to hear no, no one. This notion that somewhere there’s a new paradigm out there for everybody learning to say no, I think is a harmful thing.
Rob Artigo: Do you think it’s because the idea sort of predicated on the fact that you should just say no as a matter of course, and that you’re doing it almost arbitrarily, you’re just saying no just because you can?
Ray Zinn: Well, you know, I raised four children, they probably heard me say no more than they heard me say yes because kids will push the envelope. They will try to get away with almost anything, so you just learn to say no to the kids because you want them to learn the concept of no, don’t do that, or no, you can’t have the car, or whatever. As parents, we’ve brought up our children to hear no, and I don’t think it’s a good thing. We need more positive reinforcement than we do negative. Saying no is a negative reinforcement. Unless people are doing wrong things, like doing improper either the way they’re talking to people or the way they’re doing their job, then we shouldn’t say no. I mean, we should say no, we shouldn’t say, “Yes, you’re doing wonderfully.” But, people you have to say no to a lot or answer no to a lot are people you probably should get rid of anyway. Negative reinforcement is never, in my mind, been a good practice.
Rob Artigo: Is there a way to say no and make it positive, to say this is why? I mean, if you have to, and not in a situation where you’re just doing it because you can, but in a situation where you have to say no, but doing it in a positive way?
Ray Zinn: Well, you know, no is never positive. And so, if you’re going to say no, explain why. Don’t just say no, period. Just say no, I don’t think this is an appropriate time or I don’t think this is the right priority, and then explain why. If you’re going to say no, give a good plausible explanation, as opposed to saying no, and when I say no, I mean no. I mean, that’s negative. Avoid saying no, in my mind. Whether you’re an employee or a supervisor, avoid, like the plague, saying no.
Rob Artigo: Well, thank you again for your time, Ray. You can find out more at toughthingsfirst.com. Of course Tough Things First is the book. Ray also has his latest book for everyone to enjoy is The Zen of Zinn. You can also communicate with Ray or follow what he’s doing daily on Facebook, and also LinkedIn. Where else? Twitter. We have you tweet regularly, so that’s another great example of how you can stay in touch with Ray’s wisdom, daily. Thank you again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob. I always appreciate being on the air with you.