Why successful people don’t take NO! for an answer.
What happens when someone tells you “No”?
“No” to your application for a job.
“No” to a proposal you’ve submitted to your boss.
“No” to a new product idea.
“No” to added functionality to the Chatbot feature on your website.
“No” to the vacation suggestion you’ve offered to your partner.
I’ve seen 3 typical responses to this classic dilemma: Retreat — Hover & Meander — Double Down.
#1. Retreat — do you walk away licking your wounds?
In my experience, the most common response is the person holding the genius simply backs off, believing that since their idea was rebuffed, it was a bad idea.
Or that to pursue the matter any further isn’t worth the emotional trouble they would likely endure by going another round of pitching and trying to convince the other person that their idea has merit and is the rightful owner of the podium.
I’ve never been a fan of this approach.
First of all, it implies to me that the owner of the bright idea really isn’t all that committed to it. It’s like they’ve lobbed their position up in the air to see if it would fly and since it didn’t, they are ok with the rejection outcome.
In addition, backing off is another way of saying that the owner has no passion for their ideas. Perhaps their mind—and not their heart—owns it, and if that’s the case it’s easy to rationalize why they should accept defeat.
The lack of spirit around their idea is foreshadowing of a future problem as well if it came to implementing it.
Execution happens when emotion and passion are in play, not when the intellect is active.
As the recipient of the proposal, my conclusion when the owner backs off after rejection, is their idea would never see the light of day anyway, so justice is served.
#2. Hover & Meander — are you willing to incrementally change your idea and meander around it until you negotiate a compromise with the other person?
This is the response most often advocated by academics and experts of conflict management: the search for common ground upon which a compromise can be built.
When have you ever witnessed a crowd do anything remarkable?
Unbelievably amazing ideas NEVER result from a negotiation process. They are begotten from someone’s soul and stand the test of time to thwart rejection and, I’d needed, force fed to non-acceptors and unbelievers.
The compromiser isn’t my favourite person for a number of reasons:
- They’re ok with a watered-down—‘hold-your-nose’—solution but in my experience don’t really apply themselves to implementing it because it lacks the lustre of their original thought.
- They’re totally driven by logic and lack the emotional element necessary to do anything with their insight even if others agreed with it.
- Their willingness to find common ground is tantamount to allowing the crowd to be the prime influence on their idea. They are ok with becoming a member of the herd of average thinkers and allowing them to have a say (with the belief that herd members would then be committed to supporting the implementation of your morphed idea—rarely the case).
When the herd owns the idea, nothing magic happens.
- They are empirical evidence that the drive to be truly innovative and different in one’s thinking can be shut down by the crowd, and that’s an issue for me.
- The compromiser is forced to ‘round the corners’ of their original idea in order to feed the herd and thus the remarkability of their seed is lost.
- When the holder-of-originality says of a crowd-influenced change ‘I’m ok with the new version’, they lose a certain amount of their drive to find new, interesting and different ideas — compromise reduces the innovation process.
When the crowd is the influence, average happens.
#3. Double Down — do you take a step back, take a deep breath and have another go at trying to convince the other person of the worth of your idea?
This response to being told ‘NO!’ is for the person offering original thought to stay in the moment and keep trying to sell their idea until either they win or they finally are beaten into submission (really response #1 after prolonged debate).
It’s ironic to me that the pundits favour compromise and yet the amazing ideas most often come from a vision and polarized thinking.
Elson Musk, Sir Richard Branson and Steve Jobs are/were polarized thinkers whose genius never touched a crowd.
We need to be teaching people how to advance their ideas with a minimum of crowd intervention rather than teaching them how to water down their ideas by taking the input from the masses.
We need more ‘Double Downers’ in the world; here’s why:
- Pushing for groundbreaking progress should be the priority these days, not looking for compromise. Climate change solutions, for example, require polarized holistic thinking not biased thinking based on how the needed change will impact us personally.
- We need stronger innovators—more double-downers—given the rapid changes we’re experiencing in the world and the unexpected body blows that we have to deal with along the way.
We need to teach people how to push forward and learn the new skills necessary to advance their new ideas.
Double-down learning must take precedence over compromise teaching.
- Implementing anything new is an arduous job and it requires a champion to lead it. The Double-downer, because they are emotionally all in with their idea makes the best implementer. As mentioned before, the passive compromiser is less willing to push implementation to the limit.
- Double-downers require resilience and strong character, a trait we need more of in our organizations and lives. So let’s do what we can to breed people with this competency rather than dilute it by asking them to compromise themselves and find the lowest common denominator.
- Like it or not, achieving anything worthwhile today requires a high pain threshold to navigate a compelling thought through the maze of critics that sit in judgement of it.
- Double-downers have assumed ‘pain absorption’ as a skill they must develop to see their creativity through to successful completion.
Double-downers have a reticence to submit; we need more not fewer of them.
- Double-downers have developed the uncanny skill of making their idea so compelling that they more often make the sale than lose it.
This is fundamental to audacious leadership where the leader makes the call after gathering input (which they may or may not heed) and is able to convince everyone around them that their direction is absolutely the right one to take.
Double-downers may not always be viewed as the nice, socially acceptable, politically correct persona to advance a creative agenda, but they get the things done that need to be done.
We need them.