Learn to Accept “No”

Everyone will be told “No” in his or her life, and work is no exception. We all have put a lot of thought into a change we would like to see, a project we would like to pursue, or a new way to make the workday more efficient. Weeks were spent forming proposals, setting up meetings, and mustering the courage to ask for the opportunity to pitch the idea. Finally, we’re up against upper management with our proposal and … the response is underwhelming. We leave, defeated and wondering what happened. What do we do now? How do we handle the word everyone has feared since he or she first heard it as a child?

1) Don’t take it personally. “No” might feel like a rejection of you as a person, but “No” is often just a rejection of the proposal and has little to do with you. There are often other powers at work––the proposal may not be in line with the company’s interests or plan for the future, or it might just be unfortunate timing.

2) Expect it to come. Someone will always say “No.” You can never appeal to everyone. The expectation of receiving a “No” shouldn’t ever deter you from trying––in fact, quite the opposite. It should fuel you to consistently strive to build the best-constructed proposal you can. You should always try your hardest, but brace yourself for disappointment.

3) Adjust if needed. Oftentimes a proposal is in need of revision and will be considered again at a later date. This might make you think the idea was not good enough, that it should end at the initial rejection. And you would be partly correct. The idea, as it stands, was not good enough. But if suggestions were given, adjust your current proposal. If no suggestions were given, ask for some, along with a chance to present again. Suggestions offer an opportunity to improve as well as validation that your idea may have merit and could be useful in the future.

4) Learn from it. With every “No” comes a piece of knowledge. Is there more to the company than you knew? Do your presentation skills need work? Does public speaking frighten you? Or was your idea really as good as you thought it was? Ask yourself, or one of the people you presented to, what you could do to improve. Each “No” can turn into a learning experience.

Hearing “No” repeatedly can be disheartening and infuriating, but remember that you can’t get angry. Always thank your audience and make sure you don’t throw away a future opportunity by being upset. Don’t give up. You are no worse off than when you started out, and a positive impression can be made without your proposal making it through.

Author: Zack Smith


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