Say no, nicely!

My friends from work give me shit about how nice I am while saying no. As a product person, it’s 90% of the job to say no.

To build anything meaningful, one needs to make a certain set of strategic choices on how to start. To build a chair, I first layout the design and order the right kind of wood, screws and equipment. While my shipment is on the way, if you ask me if my chair would seat a person weighing 200 Kilograms, I’d look at my design and tell you yes or no. There is no way I’ll change the design at that stage BUT I really want to know why you asked that.

Any person processing an idea in their head is working off a set of assumptions. Stewing with those assumptions and life experiences in their head, they arrive at a conclusion which makes sense to them. It might be something that a lot of my customers also feel similarly about and I just don’t know. They’re called blindspots for a reason.

I’ll say no but my first attempt is to be as helpful as I possibly can. I’ll understand your point and then if I really can’t help, I’ll politely and firmly decline. I can’t derail my chair building exercise to build a lazyboy but if I know that enough fat people want it, it maybe what I build next. I’ll use this conversation to learn something and store it as a data point for the future.

Some times, I’ll go out of my way to spend personal time writing you a script to keep things chugging without disrupting any engineering cycles. In good faith. For no reason other than I can. It’s karma.

A lot of young people mistake saying no with being an asshole. I make it a point to go overboard to correct this. The job is to say no, not “fuck off”! Granted that some people are annoying and you’ll find yourself saying no all the time and occasionally you’ll lose your shit. However, the very first reason why you were hired was to be helpful. So say no, nicely!


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