When 'No' Could Be 'Yes'

I’m trying to park at Logan Airport in Boston, lot “E.” I love lot E, for the main reason that it’s outdoors, so you have at least a 50-50 shot of finding your car again.

Unfortunately, there’s an attendant blocking the entrance.

“Go to lot E2” he says. “It’s right next door.”

That’s true, but to get there you have to wind around the airport, which means, if lucky, you have an excellent chance of ending up in Rhode Island.

Ten minutes later, I’m not in Rhode Island, but I’m also not in Logan Airport. Somehow, I’ve been spit out through the airport tunnel into South Boston. By the time I get back, lot E2 is closed. What’s amusing is that lot E is now open.

My mistake. When the parking attendant said “no,” I heard non-negotiable.

When you get a “no,” or encounter an obstacle, how quickly do you fold?

If you’re in sales, you learn that “no” is often just an opening gambit. It never hurts to test, to probe. The parking attendant might have said yes; I’ll never know.

The following week I’m staying at a hotel with guest privileges to a nearby gym. One morning, I ask the hotel for a gym pass, then run over. It’s too rainy to exercise outside.

When I get to the gym, the receptionist says, “Unfortunately, we’ll need a photo ID.”

But I’ve learned my lesson.

“Is there anyway,” I ask, “to just use the pass today? My driver’s license is back at the hotel.”

“No,” she says. “You’ll have to get the license.”

I mention the weather. It’s pouring.

Receptionist: “Sorry, you’ll have to go back.”

We’re in the midst of “Broken Record,” an assertiveness technique originally invented by children to get ice cream. It sounds like this:

Children: We want ice cream.

Parents: No.

Children: When can we have ice cream?

Parent: Not until the sun comes up.

Children: When will that be?

Parents: Never.

Children: Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream!!!

With broken record, you calmly repeat your position until the other person either gives in or goes insane.

The receptionist and I go back and forth. Finally she lets me in. Although our conversation has stayed friendly, I decide not to ask for ice cream.

Tip: The next time you get a “no,” test. You can push back, without being pushy.


Consultant, author, speaker, and founder of express potential® (www.expresspotential.com), Paul Hellman has worked with CEOs, executives, and managers at leading companies for over 25 years to improve performance and productivity at work. His latest book is “Naked at Work: How to Stay Sane When Your Job Drives You Crazy,” and his columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and other leading papers.

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