Out of the Shadows: When You Get NO

So what do you do or think or say when you get a “NO” (capital letter for emphasis)? You automatically think, “What is next?” “Why the NO?” “Why not me?” Does it tend to derail you, or do you use it as an impetus to work harder, try again, knock on a few more doors, and make it your mission to get a “YES?”


When we hear NO, the common response is rejection, disapproval, and failure. It’s easy to get discouraged with whatever you are trying to achieve or obtain when you have heard the NO, especially when you’ve heard it a few times or repeatedly. And when you thoroughly believe in the project or the “thing” for which you’ve heard the NO! Now is not the time to sulk. It’s just a brief diversion from your path. 


What if the NO can be the driving force to get you to the next level? What if the two, or three, or four or more NOs are actually getting you that much closer to the YES? What if the NO allows for review and introspection that will improve the next few attempts?


As an entrepreneur, business person, and medical professional, I have heard a few NOs in my career. At first response, it’s demoralizing. And while most of the time it is not a personal issue (once I learned that, it made NO a lot easier to swallow), it will make you feel defeated with your idea, your project, or your product for which you acquired the NO. You make it a personal thing and most often felt as a confrontation on your personal and professional ego.


In recalling the more recent NOs I have experienced (ok, suffered, just a little bit), I don’t stress about having gone out on a limb. I went in full force knowing that I could get a NO. I don’t regret having written that perfect letter for each specific “target” that was the object for my case or my cause and how they were the person that would be the optimal fit to help me reach my goal. Practice makes perfect, and I know I spent valuable time drafting proposals that are meaningful, creative, and valuable. The practice has made me – now in hindsight – more confident for the next round of requests.


However, one thing I need to hone is how I — or the project — is something that could enhance and be of value to the person whom I am asking for help. I am working on strengthening that piece.


Some other things I have asked myself as I go forward with my next round of letters for my proposals include “Why are you asking the person you are asking?” Are they indeed the right person to help promulgate your cause? Did I know enough about the person to make my case resonate with their ideals? Will they truly support your cause based on who they are or what role they have? Will the collab be revealed to be more one-sided or will it be mutually advantageous? What IF I asked the wrong person? Should I care that I dare reach out and believe? All they can say is no. And maybe they can provide some valuable input about the project or approach that will hone the approach for the next request.


Another question is if I went too big with my goals? My mantra is “Go big or go home,” and that’s how I approached it. I ask myself if I should I start smaller which will allow me to make some valuable–less costly–mistakes before I “go big?” Trying both cannot hurt, and exploring options can be adventurous.


Another one is: Is that person just too busy? Is the project or product too small for them? Do they have a conflict of interest?


Additionally, the NO may just be a “not now” or a “now yet.” I could revisit the question in a few months and maybe have better receptivity or just plain luck and preparedness with a properly crafted credible pitch to make the YES happen. Sometimes it’s all about timing.


Another thought is if — being out of sync or having some fear — I carried some vibes that came from a tone of lack or a stance of “needing” something, vs being able to offer something truly valuable in return that would benefit the other party and allow them to advance in their respective goals. I think we need to bring value to the table, allowing the other party to consider us a true partner in a personal or professional collaboration. The goal, then, is to make your side of the table better by improving what you can improve such as your energy, confidence, or clarity.


The NO can truly be a test of how earnestly you want it, and how hard you are willing to work for it. The NO should not derail you. It should throw you off for about a minute, but then move on! Dig deep and embrace the chance to learn and get it right. Turn the NOs into priceless learning experiences and celebrations, not stressful times, and cultivate the energy to keep moving toward that amazing YES that you will certainly hear at some point.


PS: Will update on the progress of this project…definitely out of my comfort zone, but heck, if all I get is a NO, then I am good with being out of the comfort zone. Again. 


If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. 

There are a few people throughout history that have been credited for saying this, but I give one of my great former high school teachers credit for this. Thank you, Mrs. Millie Reed!

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