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RandiLynnMrvos

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                 Photo: Mattia Ascenzo
JUST TELL ME NO

For the life of me, I can't understand why some folks have a hard time saying no.      

I noticed this practice as I reached out to people in my hometown Lexington, Kentucky to see if they would be interested in my first book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell 
I sent emails, letters, school visit packets, and press releases. I asked:

  • librarians (one of them was an acquaintance) if they would schedule storytime presentations
  • teachers if they would set-up author visits 
  • journalists if they would write an article about the inspiration for the book—a dying dog that was rescued from a country road in Kentucky and nursed back to health 
But none of them responded. 

This behavior shocked me.  I assumed that the people in my community would have been supportive.  At the very least, I thought they would have had the courtesy to say no. 

Then I found out that this behavior is common. 
  
According to Hank Davis, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Guelph in Canada, this situation is common.  He calls it a 'passive no.'  He says, "It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re face-to-face, talking to them on the phone, texting, or emailing them—they are far more comfortable having your request die of old age than actually refusing it. They’ll leave it for you to figure out that whatever it was you wanted just ain’t gonna happen."  

Davis states, "One benefit it provides is that everybody gets to save face and, most of all, everyone is saved from the dreaded “C word”—Conflict."  

Conflict likely came into play when Davis asked an acquaintance if he'd be interested in joining his men's group.  Davis didn't receive a reply and says, "I disrespect the man who chose not to say “no” to our group. He avoided ruffling feathers, but at what cost? Personal integrity? Cowardice? Disrespect? Do those sound like admirable qualities? Sometimes “no” is the most honorable and respectful thing you can say to someone."

Victor Lipman, author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World, is on the same page as Davis.  Like Davis, Lipman says people are kind of lazy and they’d rather avoid the hard stuff. 

"This may account for why increasing numbers of my harder-edged, shall we say, business messages go unanswered. Conflict is unpleasant, as is the notion someone might not be doing something all that well. So, if there’s not a clear expectation that a definite answer is required (and sometimes even if there is) it’s easier and less stressful to ignore and forget it," says Lipman.

There are more reasons besides avoiding conflict as to why people brush aside a request.  Lipman says, "Between texts, tweets, Facebook messages, LinkedIn emails, traditional emails, voicemails, and others, it’s easy for any single message to get lost in the shuffle.  People are too busy.  Everybody’s rushing and multi-tasking, zipping from one activity to another with mobile devices glued to their ears and fingers—and in a generally frenetic environment it’s easy to have small things like messages slip through the cracks."  

Photo: Jon Tyson 
Despite the reasons, organizational psychologist and best-selling author Tasha Eurich believes we should be more cordial.  

Eurich encourages us to say no when you need to and states, "If someone asks you for something that you can’t or won’t do, for goodness sake, just tell them.  Believing that no response is the new no is passive aggressive, cowardly and rude. Even if a stranger sends you an email, give them the professional courtesy of a reply that says, 'Thank you so much for your request. I’m sorry that I can't help you.'  It will take you less than 15 seconds and they’ll be out of limbo. As aptly noted in The New York Times, 'Most of us can handle rejection. We can’t handle not knowing.'"

I completely agree.  Not hearing back from fellow Lexingtonians made me anxious, sad, and discouraged.

There could be many reasons why I never heard back.  It's possible that they didn't want to hurt my feelings.  That they thought I was too fragile to handle a rejection.  But they would be wrong.  What they didn't know is I'm a tough cookie.  If they are not interested in arranging a storytime at the library, having an author visit at school, or writing an article for the paper—I can take it.  Writers are used to rejection.  To the ones I reached out to, I would say show a girl a little respect.  A little kindness.

And for the love of God, just tell me no. 



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