Let’s talk about your reaction when you hear the word “no”. There’s a lot of personal worth that unfortunately gets tied in to hearing a “no” response when we’re at work. And it’s really unfortunate because you’ve heard me say this before, and I’ll probably say it a million more times.

It’s business.

It’s not personal when we’re making decisions at work, we’re making them based off what’s best for the business. Not what’s best for me as an individual or you as an individual or us as a team. Now, a lot of times those things align and that’s really great. Like what’s best for the businesses to move forward with this project. And it’s something that you were really passionate about. Awesome. We’re going to celebrate those successes, but what do you do when you hear “no”.

So often I see my colleagues, my peers, my clients, my friends and everyone in the world retreat into themselves and run away when they are told “no”.

Think about a time that you were told no. When it was really important to you, did you stay in the moment or did you try and figure out how quickly you could get out of the room? I’m not trying to scold or shame you, there’s no judgment in this because I can tell you, I have decades of experience in running from the room. And even when someone was trying to explain why they were telling me no, I didn’t care. I was like, “yeah, okay okay. I got to go to this other meeting.”

I just wanted out of the room because it hurt.

If it hurts, that’s okay. Sit with the hurt, heal yourself, give yourself a lot of love, but then ask why it hurt. It likely hurt because you have your personal emotions tied into your work and your career. And that’s okay. But we slowly need to try and piece those things apart.

Ultimately, I want everyone to be in a place where you can face a no and not take it personally. I want to build a space that allows you to ask clarifying questions as to why you got to the no.

For example, in my work I might say to my boss, “I’d really like to propose this project, here’s all the details” and if my boss says, “no”, I understand that it’s not critical of me as an individual or me as a leader. It just means that the project doesn’t fit with the business right now.

So by detaching my personal emotions, I’m able to stay in the moment. And then I can ask questions such as:

“okay, can you help me understand what the deciding factors are right now?”

And if my boss says something like, “we don’t have the money.”

I’d follow up with “when would be a good time to bring this back up again?” or “what threshold of a project, a budget would be acceptable.”

“No” is just one little word that gives you an opportunity to follow up and get a lot of information that you might not otherwise have gotten.

Another example of how this can better inform your future asks is:

If I asked for a project and I get a “no”, I’d say, “okay, can you help me understand what the limiting factors are?”

Likely he would come back and say something along the lines of “well, this wasn’t budgeted. It’s not in CapEx.”

My next question would be “okay, well, how do I get it in CapEx for next year? Or what is the budgeting timeline? What’s the cycle?” I now have information I’d never had before. Now I’ve learned that we put together budgets in June. I need to have this project ready and pitched to my boss in April and May so that we can get it into the June budget.

I know it’s tough. And I know that a lot of the things I talked to you about are not easy, and they’re definitely not things that you need to implement overnight — some people spend YEARS, lifetimes working towards this, but I really challenge you to stick with the no, stay in the moment, ask clarifying questions, get as much information as you can.