decision making · tech

The Law of “No”

Note: This premise does not always hold-up when there are strong power dynamics at play.

Imagine you are in a situation where you really need to do something. You potentially need someone’s help or simply want their advice. You go and explain the situation and their response is “no”. Can you picture a time where this has happened?

No, then what?

After that happened what did you do? This is assuming you really must or really want to solve a problem where you solution got a resounding “no”. There are a few different options, but often the answer is “back to the drawing board.”

The 2nd idea

You probably spent a lot of time investigating and coming up with your first idea. That second idea? It is often 1,000 times worse than the first in some way. There is usually a huge trade-off. To improve decision making Chip and Dan Heath suggest usage of the “vanishing options test” which is a version of what has happened, but most people aren’t going to return to the person that told them “no” unless they have to.

Let’s make sure I understanding the problem

Now let’s picture a different scenario. What about if the person asked you a few questions. One I like is to reflect back the problem statement to the person and ask if I understood correctly. The other is to simply ask the other person to walk me through the problem statement the predicated the solution.

Not only does the make sure you understand things it also builds a partnership with the other person around the problem. Do you really need to say “no” or is there just one variable that needs to be changed to make it acceptable? Or is the problem so bad that a bad solution is better than letting the problem remain? At the very least by becoming a partner in the problem you have started thinking it through with them.

Yes, and…

Diana Montalion‘s suggest approach to this problem is one of “Yes, and…” which is another way to build on the other person’s idea. This concept comes from a improv comedy game where you consistently have to say “yes, and…” then building on the other person’s idea.

Anytime you can become a partner in the solution it is going to build better empathy, connection and reasoning. It is also going to prevent going back and coming up with that idea that is 1,000 times worse.

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