Article: Are You Behind The Times In How You Come Across

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Written by Duchess Willow de Wisp, submitted 10/31/2012.

Several years ago I wrote an article on how we were saying no and not perceiving that we were saying “No”. I lost that article when my computer went bye-bye. This time I decided to see what the Internet had to say on the subject. While I didn't find anything about “people misunderstand things to mean no,” I found some of things I reported from the under 30 group as meaning no listed as “nice” ways to say “No.”

Article Name: Commentary by Michael Wade on Leadership, Ethics, Management, and Life
Article Link: 10 Ways People Say No

  • No.
  • Forget about it.
  • If you get everybody on board I'll back it.
  • The committee will want to tweak it.
  • We've never done that before.
  • That is very creative.
  • Did I tell you what happened when they tried those seven years ago?
  • It is very bold. Perhaps a little too bold.
  • Let me play Devil's Advocate.
  • Do you mind if we postpone it for a few weeks?

More Polite Ways To Say No

Article Name: Polite Ways To Say No
Article Link: Polite Ways To Say No.

  • Polite Way to Say No #2: Suggest an alternate plan: When someone asks you to perform a task you're not keen on doing, suggest something else you might do instead.
  • Polite Way to Say No #3: Stall for time: Instead of saying "yes" right away (and regretting it later), tell the person requesting a favor you need a few days to think about it.

I wonder if any of you have ever heard these statements. I have. When I was talking to people in the SCA they complained that they heard “No” a lot, but when I really talked to them I realized that they were responding to perceived negativity. You know when a woman says to a man, “Don’t shout” and the man replies “I wasn't shouting” and what was really happening wasn't the raising of the voice, but a rising of intensity. All the people who I talked to interpret certain statements as meaning “no” while many of the situations the leadership did not mean no.

The number one was the postponing of an answer. As you can see the “Stall for time” is on both lists. Most of the younger people thought if you didn't get back with them within 24 hours you have rejected their idea. They are used to immediate responses to request.

How To Correct This Problem

Make sure that the individual understand that you we see the people involved next Tuesday and you can’t tell them what is be done until then. If you older than 30 or you have been in the SCA for a while you know that the SCA is slow. One of the reasons that we have Stewards of events is to speed up decision making. If you are the autocrat and you have to say no, please get back to the person with reasons and solutions to the problem.

For Example: The reason you do not want Hobby Horse races at your event is that you have people races taking place and that was arranged before now. You might suggest that the children area might like to do the races or that the person talk to Lord Swift about adding your races to his.

Another thing I reported that many people thought meant no was submitting a written form. When people go up to a perceived leader and ask the question, “What do you think about doing this at an event?” and the leader says “Write it up and we will see.” That is taken as a “no”. The Leader didn't say “that is a neat idea let’s see if the Autocrat will do it.” The leader didn't even imply that it was worth writing up. It appears that the Leader is just postponing and doesn't think much of the project. Many people believe this is just a bunch of red tape to put people off.

Another Way To Correct This Problem

People go to Leadership to get a feel of the validity of their ideas. The communication gateway people in a group serve the function of giving people a “heads up”. Many of our under 30 group are used to leadership that will give them feedback and when a “leader” seems uninterested in concept they think that is the kiss of doom. They feel it is a waste of time to follow it up. That is one of the reasons Barons, Baronesses and officers need to act enthusiastic about people’s ideas. We are a club that has creative in our name and people want to do things. Those things might not excite you, but they may be fun for others

From day one we need to support the mission statement of the SCA. If people know from the very beginning that they need to plan activities that were done during our time period and where people behave with courtesy and honor and it isn't illegal in America they will come up with proper, creative ideas. When you set the rules based on the SCA mission statement rather than a vague “Dream” then individuals realize that you have reasons for saying no and it is not personal.

If we say no we need to inspire people to come back with a better idea.

I found this article on the Web:
Article Name: Leadership: How to Say No While Also Inspiring People
Article Link: Saying no while also inspiring people (Quoted Below)

"Yet when a leader says “no” to a follower who has passionately put forward an alternative way of doing things, the sound of “no” can deliver a spirit-crushing blow. It can carry dead the weight of hierarchical authority, the stench of soul-destroying command-and-control. It can imply an adult-child relationship, (“I’m the boss and I know better than you,”) rather than an adult-adult relationship in which leaders and followers have a reciprocal responsibility to listen to each other’s ideas and converse, rather than to command. Even when reasons are given in support of “no”, the sound of “no” can be interpreted as disrespect, or even contempt. Hardly the kind of feelings that will lead to an energized and inspired workforce."

The article goes on to explain that there are leaders who encourage there followers by saying “yes”, and manager who keep everything on track. In the SCA the officers have this job and it is easy for the managers to destroy enthusiasm and creativity with their “no”.

The article suggests that the following strategies should be used when faced with an idea:

  1. "Yes!" Ideally, of course, if the follower’s idea is a good one, the leader should embrace the idea with enthusiasm. That may not be the case. So the leader has to go to the second or third response.
  2. "Let’s explore..." If the idea has promise, but the timing isn't right, or if more work needs to be done on it before it can be implemented, a “let’s explore” answer can recognize the merit in the idea, while not allowing it to distract from higher priority action items. The item goes on the list of things to be explored, but it isn't consigned to oblivion.
  3. "What if?" This answer involves the leader taking the trouble to understand the substantive merit behind the follower’s proposal and then come up with a better way of achieving the same result. There can then ensure an adult-adult conversation about the merits of the proposal.

But surely there must be ideas that have no merit at all? What if the idea puts forward something that is illegal and unethical? Does the leader still not say, “No!”? In this instance, the leader’s “better idea” will be to suggest trying to achieve the result while doing only things that legal and ethical; alternatively, if the follower is adamant in pursuing an idea that is illegal or unethical, the leader’s “better idea” may be to suggest that the follower pursue the ideas in a different organization. With such a response, the leader is of course implicitly saying “no”, but the tonality of the discussion is very different: it is interactive and respectful, rather than dismissive and hierarchical.

The impatient traditional manager may well find such advice preposterous and say, “Why waste time? Why beat around the bush? Why not just say no!” The answer is that abruptly saying “no” appears to save time in the short run, but when you look at the time and effort involved in inspiring an engaged workforce, every instance where the follower’s spirit is crushed by a quick “no” will require many subsequent efforts to rebuild morale. Hence the short run saving of time in an abrupt conversation will be a long run loss of time in repairing the damage to morale.

“No” can thus be a very expensive word to use. If a leader can maintain focus without having to say “no”, the gains to the work will be major.

There seems to be a lot of talk in the business world about getting the most out of workers by reinvention of management. There is a shift from people telling someone what to do to conversations allowing individuals to interact constructively. If people expect this kind of treatment at work they will expect it more from a group that totes Courtesy as an idea.

The SCA appears very authoritarian, but that is not good because creativity is suppressed by authoritarian leadership. It is up to the leadership both officers and nobles and peers to overcome that perception and make it easy for people in the SCA to be creative and reach their potential.