Contrary to popular belief, NO is not an insult, a rude response, or a rejection causing four-letter word. It’s just a word. Yes, it is a negative response, but not every negative thing is bad, is it? How about testing negative for aids? How about having a negative balance on your credit card? Finding the negatives to those beloved old family photos or working with negative numbers isn’t bad, either.

NO is just one of the many possible answers we can give when we’re asked a question, asked for a favor or a request is made of us. Although I’m a pretty consistent people pleasin’ yes sayer, there are plenty of times that I utter the noble NO.

I thoughtfully review all requests for my precious time, attention, hard-earned money or creative skills. I’m slightly less likely to expend a lot of energy contemplating a request for an old family recipe or the contact information for my mani-pedi guy. I’m a coach, so people frequently ask me for advice. Sometimes it’s a recommendation or testimonial that’s requested. All of those situations – along with social invitations and babysitting require different kinds of “no” – assuming that NO is the answer.

So much of how you respond depends on how you feel about the request and the requester. Do you want to say YES? NO? Are you comfortable saying NO? What’s the situation? Who’s making the request? Can you fulfill the request without ordering Valium, changing your entire life around or losing yourself in the shuffle? And, do you even have the ability, skills and/or resources to grant the request? So much to consider…This is why declining a request can often get a little sticky and little tricky.

I’ve never really been comfortable saying NO (the thought of hurting someone’s feelings or disappointing them is so unpleasant to me).  Besides, I love to be the good guy! Learning the NO wasn’t an easy lesson for me, but I would have been out of business without having done so.

I used to run a party and event planning business. Not a week went by without a request from one charity or another (sometimes it was daily) for something I had that they wanted… donated! It took me a while, but I did learn that if I said yes to everyone who asked, I wouldn’t be in business any more – and then, I’d be unable to help anyone! That’s when I developed my now famous, NO with a counter offer approach to requests.

While I seldom gave any group everything they asked for as a donation, I always gave every charity that made a request something ‘on the house’. No one was turned away. And my response to all of them was basically the same. “Oh, how I would LOVE to do all of that for you, but if I did, this store wouldn’t be here the next time you or someone else needed me. Can’t do all of that, but here’s what I can do…” And then I would make a counter-offer they couldn’t refuse. Got to love a WIN-WIN situation. Did any of us walk away feeling hurt or disappointed? NO, of course, not.