A few weeks ago, a colleague mentioned two things he likes about me. One of them is my ability to say, “No.” 

My response? 

Flattered. If you know me, you would know how much I like compliments, but then again, which girl doesn’t? 

Although flattered, I wasn’t really sure if that was a good thing, of course in other people’s opinions, not mine. I know I do say “No” when I want to say “No” and it does come easily to me. Perhaps it’s because I like to put myself first. Some people call that “selfish”, but if my well-being is “selfish” then be it. 

While I know I can say “No”, I witness a lot of people who say “No” with all their body and heart, but yet, still do whatever someone else has asked them to do. In some negotiations, from the bottom of their hearts, they don’t want to do it, yet they do. 

The scenario below may sound familiar. 

Sandy: "Please come, try to make it."
Lara: “How long do you need me?”
Sandy: “Not much, only 2 hours.” 
Lara: “Ughh…” 
Sandy: “Come only for half an hour.” 
Lara: “Mmm… but, I am busy.” 
Sandy: “Please come, remember, I am going to help you later to…” 

Want to guess what Lara did? 

She caved to Sandy’s request, but I am guessing she didn’t happily do it.


Wait. What just happened? I thought Lara didn’t want to go.

Sandy used a few consumer behavior tricks on Lara… but she messed up at one of them. 

Do you want to know which one? Let’s take a look. 

First, Sandy tried to be nice. She said “Please.” 

She got a neutral response, “a depends” response. Not a “Yes”. Not a “No”. But a “Maybe”.

Then she said “2 hours”, which seemed like a lot to Lara. 

Again, Lara didn’t give an answer but with an “Ughh” response, we can all request she was more inclined to a “No”. 

Sandy didn’t give up. She asked for “half an hour” as a negotiation tactic. Sometimes people would deliberately throw in a rather significant request, so when people say no, then they would ask for a smaller request. Having said “No” once, the other person would be reluctant to turn you down again. 

Again Sandy didn’t receive the positive response she was hoping for. 

Her initial tactics didn’t work, and so she tried using the rule of reciprocation. However, she didn’t really do it in a smart way. She somewhat threatened Lara regarding the future favor she promised her she would do. 

She cornered Lara to do what she wants, but not happily though… and in my book, that’s not very smart. 

“The rule of reciprocation says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. 

Robert Cialdini

Where did Sandy mess up?

Sandy should have done the favor first, then asked for whatever he wanted Lara to do. Only then, Lara would do it happily, and if not, then neutrally. 


Sandy and Lara’s scenario is pretty common and if you examine this situation, you would see that neither of them is actually winning. If I were Lara, I would resent Sandy… and if I were Lara, I would have said “No” from the start, but then Sandy would resent me.

What would be the best way to say “No”?


Someone recently asked me, “What advice would you give young people starting their careers?”

I didn’t have to think twice. I said Emotional Intelligence — You have got to learn this stuff. You can get people to agree with you, do what you want and become an alliance, happily, without them even noticing. 

Am I an expert in Emotional Intelligence? 

I would be lying if I told you, “Yes”. #iWish

I like to think of myself as a “Work in progress”. In fact, learning a lot about consumer behavior is teaching me so many tricks I could use in my daily life. 


As many tricks there are to support marketers and salespeople to get you to do or buy things, I am determined to also find “tricks” on saying “No” while making others happily accepting it, especially when it comes to unwanted purchases… or outings? 


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