Try to Say “Yes” Instead of “No”

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Writing about adopting the twins a couple of weeks ago led me to think about my oldest son, Andrew. He is also adopted. He was born in Romania and joined our family in 1996 at the age of two. Just like his siblings, Andrew has been a joy to watch as he’s grown and matured into a young adult.

Andrew works part-time as a Certified Nurse Aid while he attends nursing school. He is goal-oriented and disciplined. He is very intentional and has a plan for everything he does. He knows what he wants and how he wants it – always has.

As a toddler, Andrew would often ask for some small “prize” when we went to the store. Sometimes his mother and I would oblige. Often we would not. Like most parents, we found ourselves saying “no” to many of his requests.

Andrew did not like to hear the word “no.” I remember one shopping trip to the mall during which he asked me to buy him a toy. Before I could respond, he said “Don’t say ‘no’ Daddy. Say ‘I’ll think about it.’ That means there’s a chance.”

Even as adults, we don’t like to hear the word “no.” Being told “no” is a form of rejection; and no one likes to fell rejected. And when the “no” comes from a service provider, the rejection can be especially biting. We don’t just hear “no.” We tend to assume any number of motives behind it:

  • “No. Our policy is more important than your business.”
  • “No. I don’t want to be bothered right now.”
  • “No. I’m too lazy to try and find a solution that works for you.”
  • “No. I’m having a bad day and letting my negative attitude drive my behavior.”
  • “No. There’s nothing in it for me, so I don’t want to help you.”

Trying to say “yes” instead of “no” doesn’t mean that we unilaterally give in to the customer’s every whim. There are obviously many times when we are unable to honor a particular request. But a key part of creating exceptional customer experiences is avoiding the negative feelings associated with being told “no.” Saying “yes” often involves identifying different ways to get the customer what they want.

The next time you feel yourself preparing to say “no,” pause long enough to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I really need to say “No” to this request?
  • Can I give the customer part of what they are asking for? Can I meet them half-way?
  • Can I offer an alternative solution that ultimately gets them where they want to be?
  • Can I involve others who might be able to help me find an agreeable solution?
  • If the answer truly is “No,” what information can I offer to help the customer understand why their request cannot be met?

With Andrew, we learned to use his requests for toys as learning experiences. We worked with him to identify some small jobs he could perform – aside from his daily chores – in order to earn his own spending money. Armed with a solution, it was then up to him to determine how badly he wanted what he had asked for. It also gave us the opportunity to show how partnering together on a solution benefitted everyone.

I’d like to think that those early lessons helped shape my son into the responsible, independent man he is today. Just as importantly, I hope he understands the value of finding ways to work with people – by looking at difficult requests as opportunities to build relationships. Everyone feels better when there’s a chance to say “yes.”

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