On Being Told No

I’ll cut right to the chase: I don’t like being told no. Who does?

In my line of work I ask lots of people for lots of things. It feels like I am constantly making “asks” and this raises all sorts of anxiety for me. I fear being a burden, or annoying, or the person people dread receiving emails from (here we go again).

Recently I made an ask that had a lot of hope attached to it. I was told no. I fought for it. Still no.

I felt pretty crummy about this no. Then I read this. (Miller also talked about this at the World Domination Summit: how to find redemption in suffering/stories that don’t turn out the way we want them to).

So, in that spirit, here are four blessings that come with “no’s”.

  1. It forces me to pray more: you’d think I do most of my praying before/during/immediately after the ask. Rejection has a way of revitalizing my prayer-life like nothing else.
  2. The process of asking is clarifying: whether the answer is yes or no, the process makes me think deeply about what I am asking for, why I need it, and why it is important for whoever I am asking to be included in this effort. Asking produces clarity.
  3. No’s make me work harder: I’m not sure what this says about me, but yeses tend to produce laziness, a resting of laurels. No’s create urgency. Obviously, yeses are needed to get anything done, but a no drives up the energy levels in a more profound way.
  4. No’s produce character: I completely relate to Miller’s victim dialogue in the article on disappointment. It’s so easy to go there. In the end anything we receive when we ask is a gift. It’s so easy to take credit for a yes, to think I “earned” this. And, similarly, to blame someone for a no. But it’s all a gift. Maybe a better way of saying it is: no’s reveal character. And that can be painful, but ultimately necessary.

What do you think? What do you learn from “no’s”?


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