As a child, the Amar Chitra Katha was a major source of Hindu mythological stories. The stories often dealt with the kings and queens of the years gone by, part mythological and part historical. Now, the kings, being kings, would order things done and voila! there it would be. One such story narrated the happenings – the king would only have to shout, “Who is there?!” and there would be a few courtiers, soldiers that would come running to receive his orders. Nowadays, if I were to shout “Who is there?!” at home, I would hear back: “What is wrong with you? Who else will be here?” Indication enough that I am best off doing what ever task there was to be done, by myself.
Move to the office, shouting “Who is there?!” whenever a task needs to be done urgently will return inquisitive looks from all within ear shot. Of course, the source of enormous levity at dinner table conversations at all the employees’ homes would be an appreciable side effect. In a mythical environment, the Manager would announce, “You! Yes, you!! Come here!” Or even better, only clap his/ her hands and folks would come running. Ok, that’s enough reverie. The modern day organization, thankfully, doesn’t lend itself to such authoritarian behaviors.
Questions are posed more innocuously and almost apologetically at times – “Would you like to?” or “Can you please?” or “Would you be able to?” That opens up a myriad of responses varying from, “Yes” to “Hmmm” to “Maybe” to “No”. The Neon sign at the top of the head of all Managers that reads, “Manager” and blinks blue and red (especially red when these questions are posed in person) mostly assures the answer to be a “Yes” when it is put to a direct report. The challenge is when a “No” is heard. It takes courage and confidence to back yourself to say “No, I don’t want to”.
There are enough books on the subject. A simple search for “how to say no without feeling guilty” on Amazon returns about 8 – 10 books on similar topics. Apparently it is difficult enough to say No. No wonder then, that it takes a certain level of maturity to even accept the denial. There is a topic for a book perhaps – “How to accept No, when you expect a Yes!”