The Beauty of “NO!”

There is beauty in “NO!” or so I have come to realize. We generally hate to say “NO” and like to take up anything and everything that comes our way, regardless of whether we are really equipped with the time and capabilities to undertake it or not. Today, I wish to share my learning in this matter and I hope you would excuse a few minutes for the purpose of reading through this.

In late 2006, I was approached by a friend, a doctor from Bangalore who had two requirements: one, he wanted to make use of a piece of land in Jayanagar of about 2 acres and wanted my advice on the matter; and two, he had some money he wanted to invest in land, somewhere in Kerala (?!). Well, I jumped up at the opportunity. For one thing, I always knew my friend came from money; but again, which doctor didn’t. So, I was completely taken aback when he explained the amount of money he wanted to invest. It had nothing to do with his medical practice. The money came from other sources, which were legitimate no doubt.

On the day we discussed the matter, I was so excited to say “NO!”. I just pretended that I could take care of it. Going back to office, along with my good business partner, I established the Property Management division of our business. We were already doing enough work on the Project Management front and Property Management seemed to be the next thing to get into.

Six months later, after uncountable hours of paperwork, several meetings with Architects and umpteen number of tours to places we had never heard of before, the doctor suddenly disappeared. The Architect, having given several concept designs for the plot in Jayanagar, obviously chose never to work with us again. The property agents in the places we went never ever showed us another plot of land  again. And, we still have the paperwork stashed away somewhere in those old furniture in our office.

Times have changed. I do not own my share in the Project Management or the Property Management businesses anymore. What I still share with my ex-partner, is the learning that “if you find it difficult to say “no!” the first time, your difficulty is set to multiply with time!”

Probably, the sense of saying “NO!” evolves with time and experience. What seemed so difficult for me, once upon a time, seems the best thing for me to do, these days. I have been sometimes labelled “negative” (meaning pessimistic) for shooting down project inquiries. So, why is it better to say “no!”?

“NO!” is a very strong word. Your “Yes” usually goes unnoticed. But the moment you say “NO!” you are a bad guy, selfish, sometimes “negative”, et al. Well, it need not be. One must have an idea of one’s strengths and weaknesses. I usually get some or the other request for help. Sometimes it is to draft a letter. Sometimes it is to draft a plan for a house. If I wouldn’t say “NO” to these things, it would be taken for granted that I have agreed to do it. It is not a very difficult thing for me to do, if I have the time. I need to put in the effort also, which sometimes may require outside support – as in the case of drafting a plan for a house. If I somehow manage to pull it off, the effort is definitely worthwhile: you get paid.

But, then, if you really want to help someone, why would you want to only “somehow manage” their state of affairs? Wouldn’t it be a great deal of trouble that you are inviting upon yourself? It is this sort of thought chain that helped me overcome my disability of saying “NO!”. The last time I agreed to draft a plan for somebody, the house did eventually get built. Wait, don’t congratulate me as yet! The house doesn’t function the way I intended it to. The “client” who sought my help in drafting the plan was specific that he only wanted a bare minimum architectural plan with very basic amenities and that he intended to use his own labour for finishing the construction. Obviously, I had no control over what happened at the site. The construction happened according to what seemed easiest for the contractor. The result: a lot of additions and subtractions. I was not the “plan” guy. It was not my job to do, no matter how desperate my “client” sounded. Secondly, if I did eventually draft the plan, it was also my duty to ensure the house got built exactly the way it was meant to be. Well, I failed.

With no offence to anybody, the reason I say there is beauty in “NO!” is not because I am pessimistic. I still extend favours to people and hence, I cannot be called selfish either. Whether I am bad or not is not a judgement I am capable of. That, I leave it to you. “NO!” sometimes helps move things the same way “Yes” does. If you want to get something done, it always helps to understand which people can’t get it done.

I have had enough trouble dealing with: the plumber working on homes, who suddenly decided he can also work on apartment buildings with the same team; the electrician who thought fixing underwater lamps in swimming pools is very similar to installing it elsewhere; the tile-layer who thought glass mosaic tiles can be laid in the same way that ceramic tiles are laid; and n number of other situations from other different fields of work also.

I hope this clears any revulsion that the reader may feel towards me the next time I say “NO!”.

I would love to hear from you! Good Day, Good Night!!!

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One thought on “The Beauty of “NO!”

  1. i remember my experiences that taught me to say ‘No’
    but i’ve also found that the intensity of past experiences dissipates after a while and depending on the circumstances.

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