I never did like the word “no.” I try to avoid using it with my family, my friends, and the people with whom I work. Rather than telling my children what I want them NOT to do, I tell them what I want them TO do. Nancy Reagan was brilliant when she started the “Just Say No To Drugs” campaign. It wasn’t the “Don’t Do Drugs” campaign. It was a subtle but tremendous difference.
When someone asks me for something that I cannot provide, I tell him or her what I can do. I learned this trick from watching interviews on TV. If you carefully watch the news, you will see how often a politician or a CEO will give an answer to a question other than the one that was asked. For instance, if a patient asks to see me tomorrow when I’m not available, I might suggest scheduling the appropriate test for tomorrow so that we could review it together the next day. Henry Kissinger was famous for saying, “What questions do you have for my answers?”
Whenever someone says “no” to you, try to envision an alternative response that would have made you feel better. If you still think that the word “no” is often necessary, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.