I’m a big supporter of saying “No”. As a mom, I say it constantly (that’s good parenting, right?!), and in other areas of life, I do my best to say no to things that aren’t right for me, my work, or my family. I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
As someone who is willing to say no, I also have to accept no from others. I’m okay with my kids saying no to me (within reason, of course!), I accept when others have to decline invitations or requests, and I “get it” that I will be declined for certain positions or opportunities. As a freelance writer and a consultant, I hear no quite frequently. I’m okay with that and take it in stride.
Side note, and a glimpse into my past-life: I studied theater in college and pursued life as an actor for a while, so hearing no and moving on like it’s no big deal is something I practiced quite a bit. Hearing “no” and continuing on without much anguish is a skill I’ve developed, but I get that it’s not like this for everyone. I know it’s not always easy to be okay with hearing that you’re not wanted for something, that someone isn’t available, or that your kids are digging in their heels.
Back to the point:
Hearing “no”- you’re not wanted, your idea isn’t accepted, someone can’t assist you. It’s a normal part of life. People have the right to decline, believe you aren’t the right choice, or that your skills aren’t where they need to be.
But guess what? Sometimes you shouldn’t take “no” as the final answer.
Yes, it’s important to respect people and their wishes, (and yes, we want to teach our kids that “no means no”) but in professional matters, I’m presenting the idea that you may not want to stop when you hear “no.”
Here’s an example…
I found a job that I think I’m perfect for. I applied and I was ultimately sent an email rejection. I didn’t even make it to an interview. I was bummed, but instead of being sad or frustrated, I hit reply on the email and stated that I appreciate their response, and that I would love to be reconsidered. While there was a bit more to the email, that was the gist of it. I didn’t want to take “no” as the answer, and I professionally and politely asked them to reconsider.
What’s the worst that could happen? They’ll say no again. Or they’ll ignore me. Either way, I’m in no different of a position than if I had done nothing after the email.
But what good could come of it?
I could get a response that they’ll allow me an interview; I could hear no or silence, but perhaps I’m on their radar in a positive way. Maybe they’ll consider me in the future. While I may not get any farther, and though I might not have any more clarity on the situation, I decided not to take “no” as the final word, and I feel good about that.
Want to know what actually happened?
A week after I was declined for the position (and replied back that I’d love to be reconsidered), I was contacted by the person at the company who I had sent my response to. Though I wish she emailed to let me know that they would in fact interview me, she instead let me know that someone in her network was looking to hire. She said “I was so impressed with your professionalism and experience during your … application – I think you might be a great fit for her!”
I’m fairly certain my application alone would not have made her think of me; going beyond that to reach out likely set me apart from others. Though the position she mentioned wasn’t quite right for me, I am more than satisfied with how this worked out. Maybe she’ll think of me down the road for another opportunity.
Regardless if anything happens from here, sometimes it’s beneficial to push back a little.
As you can guess (or may know from experience), we also need to consider how we push back, not simply that we do it.
If I had written a snarky email and stated something along the lines of “You need to reconsider me…I should have been included in the next round” as if I were entitled to it and they made a mistake, or if I was rude, then I really would be doing more damage than good. So, yes, don’t take no for an answer, but be thoughtful about how you do it.
Try these tips for when you don’t want to take no as the final answer:
Be professional in your follow up; you can respond quickly, but craft a thoughtful response with an appropriate greeting and salutation.
- Be polite; what’s that saying? You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Same thing if you’re asking someone to reconsider a decision.
- Be open to feedback. When you’re asking someone to reconsider you, they may follow up with additional information about why the answer was no to begin with. Use this as a learning opportunity and be thankful for the additional information.
- Be appreciative; getting a rejection is better than no response, in my book, so I always thank someone for letting me know about their decision. If I feel that this is the type of situation where I want to ask them to reconsider their answer, I also thank them for their time in considering my request.
- Be willing. You don’t know what will happen by making this additional request. Be willing to put yourself out there and if you’re feeling nervous, remember that there are positives that could come from this.
Hearing “no,” especially as a professional in a business such as consulting or freelancing, is common. It’s important to get comfortable with the idea that people will not want to work with you, or will not feel that you’re the right fit. Guess what? If the final answer is no, then they’re doing you a favor. They’re leaving you open to pursue something else and find that good fit. I’m full of clichés: When one door closes, another one opens. But just maybe, you can get the first door to reopen and you can walk on it.