It’s Only “No”

by Jennifer Miller on March 23, 2010

in Personal Effectiveness

When I was a kid, struggling about going for a new opportunity my mom would say, “What’s it hurt to ask? The worst they can say is ‘no’.”   

Same message by Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership in his post Career Advice Part 4: You Have to Ask for It. . .

 . . . and then again last week when I attended a fantastic Gaining Mind Capture presentation by Tony Rubleski on asking your best clients for referrals. . .

 Then last night I got the following DM from Erin Schreyer :




She’s referring to my article featured on the site (“above the fold”, no less!). This article came about after I made a pitch to the Deputy Editor of the online magazine.

See a theme here? It’s about making the ask.

Now, if you got back to Dan’s blog post and read the comments, you’ll see push back from people doubting that you’ll get something just because you asked for it.  People saying that simply asking doesn’t do any good and that it’s just an exercise in futility.

Here’s what I’m thinking about that:

  • If you don’t ask, you’re increasing your odds of not getting what you want.  See GL Hoffman’s brilliant “He Ain’t Coming, Folks” to lay it out plain and simple.
  • It’s about timing—I “made the ask” of the ForbesWoman editor after spending time following and being involved in the same social media platforms that she frequents.  I built credibility before asking.
  • And (thank you, Mom)—so WHAT if they do say no?  You can choose to figure out a new strategy for getting what you want. Or, you can simply move on.  Either way, it doesn’t have to destroy you.  It’s just “no.”

What are you wishing for, waiting for, hoping for? What’s out there that may, just may be within your grasp if you are willing to make the ask?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Deirdre March 23, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Awesome. Congratulations. Way, way cool.

Mary Jo Asmus March 23, 2010 at 4:09 pm


People really do fear the answer, “no”. For many, it is a personal rejection. You’ve put that into perspective so well here, Jennifer.

As Peter Block would say, “No is the the beginning of conversation”. I like that.

Jennifer March 23, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Dee and Mary Jo,

Thanks so much for stopping by. Yes, there’s so much fear bound up in our reasons for not doing something. I’m not “fearless” by any stretch, but thankfully I had a mom who was able to teach me a simple device for maintaining perspective.

Another thought as I write this– maybe when the “no” (rejection) is private– ie: I ask via email, and someone replies “no” via email…maybe that’s easier than some sort of public rejection. Just thinking out loud….

Walter March 24, 2010 at 6:34 am

AH, persistence. It is extremely powerful. It is our most reliable weapon against any contradictions. 🙂

Becky Robinson March 30, 2010 at 5:31 am

This is very encouraging, Jennifer. When we started LeaderTalk about a year ago, I was much bolder about asking. I wonder if it is easier to make the ask when it feels like we are doing so just to survive. When we get more comfortable, we may be less likely to take risks.

What do you think?

Jennifer March 30, 2010 at 5:49 am

Thanks for stopping by! It’s always a treat to see your comments.

I think it depends on what we tell ourselves when we answer the question “What’s the worst that can happen?” So, using the situation you pose—during LeaderTalk’s early days, if you felt you had “nothing” to lose—because you were hungry for getting content and traffic on the blog, then you were willing to take the risk. It sounds like after time, a certain comfort level set in, and now you find yourself starting to back off on taking risks, correct?
In my opinion, successful people are the ones who assess risk/threats in the most clear-headed way. They are able to push through fears that aren’t really true threats, such as self-limiting thinking like “people will think less of me” or “I might fail/be seen as imperfect”. They are also able to correctly forecast risks that may truly bring financial or personal ruin.

In fact, I just blogged about this early in the week about Fearless versus Reckless.

Check it out and let me know if this distinction is helpful to you.

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