The Ability to Say No

As Steve Jobs said:

“The ability to say NO is incredibly difficult but it’s the most effective way to remain focused and not lose sight of what is important.”

Knowing how to say NO is a fundamental skill for any professional. As is the case with many other skills needed by everyone, personally and professionally, we are not taught to say NO. For this reason, many times we say YES when we shouldn’t, or we say NO in the wrong way, which affects our reputation, image and even our relationships.

Probably, at some point in your life you have found yourself in the situation where you should say NO but you didn’t know how to do it or didn’t dare say it.

With this post you will learn to understand why it is so necessary to know how to say NO, as well as learn the consequences of not knowing how to do it. Most importantly, you will learn a concrete method and the art of saying NO.

Why we are afraid to say no

Throughout our lives, there will be situations in which:

– We are asked or requested to do something that is not acceptable.

– We are victims of abusive behavior.

– A situation occurs that does not work or is not fair and we must change it.

The most typical or classic reactions to these situations can be

– Settle, and say YES when we should say NO.

– Attack, or say a NO in a bad way that can cause conflict with the other party.

– Avoidance, do not say anything. Hope the problem will solve itself when we actually know it will not be.

With all these reactions will drag out the problem itself, and risk it transforming into a serious crisis and endangering our interests or our relationships.

Therefore, we can say that the tension arises between protecting our interests vs. our relationship with the other party.

It’s also possible that on occasion, we are afraid of saying NO because of the fear that:

– People will get angry with me thinking I don’t want to help or that I don’t like them.

– We are afraid to stand up to power or authority.

– Out of compassion, if I say NO, they will be in a difficult or complicated situation.

– Simply because I don’t know how to say NO.

– Or other reasons as good or as bad as the ones mentioned.


However, we must accept that to say NO, is to act positively with people.

A NO can be much better than a YES when we know that we will not or should not keep our promises.


Discovering the Client’s Needs and Propose your Products/Services

This part is fundamental, nobody buys for buying’s sake if it is not to satisfy some need. When we decide to buy a product or a service, it’s because we hope that it will bring us some benefit either physical or intellectual. If we can identify that need or that lack, we have already got all our motivation. Why? Because we will be able to offer that benefit through that product and we will solve objections.

It is very important to identify the needs of our potential buyer:

– Why are they interested in my product?

– What needs, fears or ambitions do they have?

We will now explain how to discover these needs through three techniques:

  1. Research. You can search for information about what people want through the Internet, via Google, social networks, etc.
  2. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Try to empathize with your client and you will be able to find out more about them.
  3. Ask your question. Ask open questions instead of closed ones so that you don’t limit the answers and you have a better chance of finding out why.

Propose your products/services

Although you can find an infinite number of ways to put these types of techniques into practice, one of them is to follow the CAB method (Characteristics, Advantages and Benefits) that we have designed at TPG, we are going to see it in more detail:

  1. Characteristics of the product. What is the product like, what defines it? Except in totally innovative products or services, it is not going to provoke the final decision of the buyer but this phase is necessary.
  2. Advantages of the product. What does it provide more than other products? Never talk about devaluing other products in the market but show emphasis on the virtues of our product. Each one of the advantages we want to emphasize must be interesting to the buyer.
  3. Benefits for the client. It is a consequence that comes linked to the previous point mentioned but specify with the client in question.