Learn to Say No If You Want Yes to Mean Something

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.

–KENNY ROGERS, “The Gambler”

When Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, his wife became famous leading an antidrug campaign under the slogan “Just Say No!” In fact, saying no is not an easy sell. People who live in a 24/7/365 world of can-do and must-do ascribe negative traits to anyone who uses the world’s shortest negative. No is a sign of hostility; it implies passive-aggressive impulses; it brands the speaker a defeatist; it undermines creativity, goodwill, and good humor. For many managers, consultants, facilitators, and staffers, saying no can be interpreted as cowardice, ...

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