(when) No is the beginning of a conversion Not the end of one

When there is a persistent complaint/unsettledness . . . when mourning or sadness are tinged with a sense of wrong doing or injustice . . . when there is compliance over peaceful and willful consent . . . when one's efforts and will are not hand-in-hand with one's heart.


How many times are you likely to hear “No” in the next month?  How about a year?  Five years?  Now, broaden that out to “No’s” that don’t actually include that word, such as:

  • ›  a ‘Policy’ that forbids or strongly advises against an action
  • ›  a non-verbal expression of “No,” such as planned ignoral to an offer, or redirection of a conversation, or physical look/shrug
  • ›  a pleasing request from another like “Hey, I’d really love it if you clean that area up a bit more” and you don’t want to
  • ›  the voice in your own head telling yourself “No,” wordlessly

Yup, lots!  What would it be like if you were able to work with “No” with power, intention, and compassion?  Here, you’ll find tools/options/considerations to that end.  You’ll be able to use the below menu/directory/reminders to work with situations like:

  • ›  You ask for time to do something and are told no
  • ›  You’re asked to do a chore you don’t want to, you say no, and your partner says you don’t have a choice
  • ›  You are off to run an errand and are told no, you need to stay and help
  • ›  You’re told you need to be somewhere that you don’t want to be in that moment (No, stop that and do this)


The below, abbreviated menu of NVC options is not necessarily intended to be followed in order, but rather be general reminders.

Emergency 1st Aide Needed?  A “solo” experience (“bitching”/whining AT/WITH others is not the intention)

Be your Jackal self – howl at the moon or to an open ear. Pump up the Enemy Image. Take your time here.
Reflect / Reframe / Validate your own speech (or get an emotionally intelligent buddy to help you)
Then, hear your feelings.  Bring to your awareness the needs those feelings are pointing towards.
Monitor your Intentional Speech . . . should’s out or in, inquisition Why’s, Y/N ?’s / dichotomies of choice.


Balance Out

Check in with your orientation (out and in)

What do I want the person’s reasons to be for doing what I’m asking them to do?
What do I need to know about their needs so they can freely give me what I ask?
What gets in the way of my holding their needs dear?
Rate the intensity of my feelings – is this a hangnail (1) or a broken marriage proposal (10)?

Acknowledging perceptions of HOW the other(s) is/will be – prickly, “unempathetic,” busy, integrity/trust


Dance Floor

Three domains:  know where you’re standing and where you AND the other person(s) are standing/moving: 

Empathic listening            What are they saying yes to in their no?  See the “Transyestite”
                                        Engage in the “Reading Minds” process for the other
                                        Translate strategies, beliefs, and judgments into core needs.
Self-expression                The same three points above, from the other toward yourself
Self-empathy                    Emergency 1st aide and balancing out above



Remember that requests are separate from understanding.  Seek connection first, then understanding.
Remember that a true request is one where you’re willing to hear no and play with it (otherwise a demand)
Taking care not to reach the request/strategy/solution phase unless it feels right.
Acknowledging that the best outcome may be understanding, and not a change beyond that.
Consider if requests are best explored in a secondary meeting with a little space of time.


Tools . . .

Expanding options – creativity options

Play the Believing and Doubting Game (expand the possibilities of both “right” and “wrong”)
What are the underlying assumptions?  Are they complete?  If it were possible, what would it look like?
Get out of your head – how would Gandhi, Obama, Bush, Oprah, 1700 person, 2200 person, . . . approach it?
        What would this be like at a place that is far more challenging? Less?  With a superstar?  Mediocre person?
How do other successful people navigate this space/path?  What would your role model/heroes/mentors do?
Is there more than one possible path forward that can be simultaneously tested/explored/tried?
        Thought experiments – what would those paths be like, both positive and negative?
Can the decision/outcome be broken down into smaller pieces?
Does it make sense to put a toe in the water, then a foot, leg, body, and then fully submerge?



What needs do we share in this meeting?  Get those on the table/paper literally.
1 = Speaking Giraffe / 2 = Screaming in Giraffe / 3 = Disguised Jackal Jolt (intractable conflict where ice lock is broken via dramatic words/actions.  Disguised, because still a Giraffe underneath.)
“Compelling Positive Vision” – the story of how wonderful it would be . . . what life would be like with success
Get a 3rd party/mediator involved.  Try another and another if the first doesn’t work out.


Intentional speech, such as:

Yes, And . . .  (Affirm the other person/essence; Pause for confirmation; Add one piece of new information)
Also in the sense of yes to intent, and substitution of another option(s) to quickly test other strategies.
“Should” in judgment (fingers pointing out or in), and/or “should” as wishy washy statements
Yes/No – offering a false and/or limited choice set; not allow a more general wondering to surprise with answers
Why – in the spirit of inquisition instead of inquiry (which can be asked without using the word “why” as well)



“I hope this is our 1st conversation about this, not our last”   or     “Same time tomorrow, let’s revisit this.”
Nonverbals . . . tone, volume, posture, pace, eyes, arm movement/position



Time of meeting (and between meetings)
Cues / Frame of mind / Rapport

Sitting next to one another or at a 90 degree angle, as opposed to across from one another
Talk in a space where such discussions are unlikely to usually take place
Presence to the spirit of the conversation using the physical Giraffe and Jackal ears/puppets

Medium of meeting:  In person / video / phone / writing    (generally, in decreasing order of effectiveness)
Location, and, others in the room.

The no is a no in the end.  The receiver is supported emotionally and physically in finding the joy in that reality (re-storying, perhaps with some structural changes beyond an open ear).
A 3rd (4th?) party being present to help broaden your perspective and hold space.
What is the history in the relationship?  What are the structural/legitimate power differences present?



Courage / Fear

Hurt me to hear no again (e.g., lose face, door slammed, salt in wound, lose more than have now, access to people, access to current/future opportunities, ________).
Hurt the other person to say no again (e.g., lose face, anguish, embarrassed, get a yes that isn’t genuine, _________). 
Will get what you ask for, at least to some degree, and not sure want it.
To what degree is this about me or we?  And, “my way or the highway?”

Mourning / Sadness
Need Shifting / Need versus Wants / Meeting needs (“Ahem! What about me?”)

What is the % chance of a change?  What about with a new approach?
Re-imagine the outcome possible, especially with creativity and love – imagine some kind of scenario that would be mutually beneficial . . . re-imagine their possible reactions.
If zero chance/possibility, re-approach and find out for sure instead of imagining.
Otherwise, work on your own needs and choices as they exist for you.

Clean Communication / Asking for your 100% / Mambo #5 reflections

Time:  change (in whatever form) may not occur at the pace desired
Time:  what will the effect be in 10 minutes / 10 hours / 10 days / 10 months?

Laugh at your silly human self!

http://beingwrongbook.com/synopsis    and    http://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_don_t_regret_regret.html
Consider your own mistakes, of similar size or greater magnitude.  Perhaps think of your younger self.   Laugh?

Challenge, and being in the Growth Zone

Transfer – what will it look like if I strengthen myself in this way in future environments, personal and professional?

Miracle Question:  what would it look if our meeting was filled with humor, openness, kindness, and play?

How could I imagine myself, in the best possible future, being in the conversation?



The other person(s) won’t come to the table!

Is that person(s) absolutely necessary?  Options to meet in another way/time/manner/location? 

I don’t have the time!

Make the time / Be at choice

They are a jerk!

It only takes one person to speak/know/be NVC

It’s their job/role!

Responsibility for your behavior ALWAYS rests 100% with yourself.  Of course, there are numerous situations and circumstances that create or narrow possible avenues, yet which avenue is picked remains a choice.  The choice may be undesirable and limiting, yet the choice is there.  Check it out:  http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=3008

The decision/action was immanent!

If you’re going to act, find peace and responsibility in your action, and create a future conversation.

“I don’t feel heard!”

Your need to be understood is the elephant in the room . . . follow the NVC prompts at the beginning of this piece . . . get some 1st aide!




The below table is intended to offer brief, 30,000’ view examples . . . to be thorough would be to run through nearly all of the above 50+ options/considerations/thoughts/exercises.  That would also be of high value – find an emotionally intelligent buddy and please do work through something present and important to you (or past and still sore). 


The No

The Yes

Expanded Options

Possible Phrases

Don’t want to do the Beat the Dog thing

Would enjoy more comfort / Appreciate being clean with dog not all over me / Get scratched sometimes and wish for more safety

Cut the dog’s nails / teach the dog not to jump on people / fence off the entry way / get a different dog / wrap the dog in a blanket

I’d love to be even more excited to greet you each day, how can we make that happen? / Help me understand the importance of this particular ritual to you

Don’t want to do a Date Night this week

Need for ease/relaxation / wish to have comfort of home / Exhausted and need for rest/sleep / Anxious around finances and wish to conserve money

Have a date night at home / postpone for tomorrow or very soon / do activity that doesn’t cost anything / ask for a gift date night from friends or family

I’d love to support you needs for ease and comfort and allow for special connection time for the two of us; how can we make that happen? / I see how this is stumping us for now, and I’m sure we can creatively figure it out



Three Final Reflections

No Is Good

a)      “No” is not “bad.”  A “No” is always a “Yes” for something positive and wonderful the person/people are seeking.  Remember that the no is really a ‘transyestite.’  Saying “No” is powerful, positive, and necessary.

b)     Harken back to Intentional Speech and the use of Yes/No questions.  They are appropriately and powerfully used when truly asking for confirmation, such as an empathic guess of a feeling or need.  Similarly, an “informative” ‘No’ (e.g., “Did it rain yesterday?”) is not the spirit of this current piece.

With all of these tools/options/considerations, when you next hear an unsettling “No,” remember that choices always
exist, in any case, even if the choice rests only in your attitude/perspective.

 And, by the way, the above works in reverse as well – when YOU are the one saying “No” to someone else!   

Sam Smith, "we rebel not as a last act of desperation but as a first act of creation."