By Frank J Rich
Scratch a rational and you’ll find a scientist. The natural inclinations in us, though often formed of discipline and habit, have a way of pushing through. Something warms the spirit in our most fundamental urgings and: “Poof,” our clothes tear and muscles bulge as the real identity of the Hulk emerges. Something under the skin is usually waiting to come out. And its light is never brighter than when we give license to it forming. There is an infusive and productive spirit in each, and also a demon that conspires to keep us bound to convenience and mediocrity. Which prevails, the wisdom goes, is the one we feed the most.
The “yes” and “no” in the human condition may be what informs next steps, its sufficiency the strength of interlocking “Lego’s” of experience and understanding, and its motivation the thought that becomes behavior. Few would argue the compulsion that makes us late for things, forcing us to tidy up, spend another’s time finding just the right shirt or shoes to wear, or finish chores now more evident as we rush to the car to consider excuses for being late. His alter ego: the person who arrives at the airport 3 hours before flight time, just in case. The “yes” and “no” in each is not only what qualifies us uniquely, but helps determine how others might employ our, well… unique style and skills.
Our willingness to reveal this most fundamental urging may hold some promise for the balance it strikes in each choice, but is unrevealed to most. Simply, “yes” means “no” to something, as does the converse. When we agree to join neighbors in cleaning up the streets of litter, we might be saying “no” to a Sunday afternoon football game. The offer is less appealing (in the strict sense) than sitting on the couch with a beer and pretzels, but the ESFP in us (Meyer Briggs) compels the choice by a fundamental urging. Even more compelling is the science that reveals the D4ND gene, which experts say compels us to vote as our parents did.
At the root of much behavior is fear, another term that describes the survival instinct endemic to animal and plant. Our loyalties and intentions are quick to surface, the fuel in the Self-Ideal. We humans are patterned to put our best foot forward, give the best impression of ourselves, our achievements, and our personal design for others and the world at large. What we will and won’t do, at least in polite conversation, rolls quickly off the tongue. Few bend to the cloistered mind twisting of the ascetic. So, how do we model the “ideal” with the integrity of our actions: words given meaning by powerful phrases of action?
The world may be hurtling so fast that information overload or eroding ethics want desperately for a “stop” button in the way that the bottom of every text message offers subsequent relief. Refusal takes on a sense of urgency under such circumstances, and yields a “positive no,” a prodigious alternative to “out of control” submissiveness. The Delphic ethic in this choice may burn welts on the pages of so many “yes” motivational essays and books, but informs a more concrete measure of rational and feeling behavior than its popular scion.
When customers say “No”, is it really “Yes”? No, Yes, Yes, and Yes again! Yes, they did say “no.” But what they’re really saying is “yes,” if they can be shown the real value in your offer, and “yes” they want to buy if you would only help them get there. And “yes” they are not going to make it easy for you. Ask a customer to spend twice his annual budget on promotion and he’ll gasp at the nerve of you. Tell him how your proposed methods of promotion are better endowed than any he has used-yielding a 500 percent ROI, then ask if he’d find money he doesn’t have to fund such a venture. Can you hear the “Yes” forming?
What we “will” and “will not” do is critical information to organizations, both in hiring and defining the market “use model” for products and services. Know both and better decisions and market success naturally follow. After speaking to so many of those who say: “I can,” and those who say: “I can’t,” I’m convinced they’re on to something.