In The Power of a Positive NO, William Ury writes about what makes it difficult for most of us to say no to people. It’s the tension between exercising our power and managing the relationship. So while saying No allows us to exercise our power, it may damage the relationship. We typically respond to this tension one of three ways or use a combination of them. Ury calls them The Three-A Trap.
The first A is for Accommodate where we prioritise a relationship at the expense of our own needs and interests. We say Yes when we really want to say No because we don’t want to hurt or offend the person. This is an unhealthy position which in the short term may bring us peace but in the longer term can result in a lot of subdued pain for the person who should be saying No.
The next A is for Attack. In this case we actually say No, but say it poorly. This may happen because we are angry at the other person’s behaviour and we lash out with a No that hurts the person. This can also come from a person who has been accommodating for so long and they become so angry that they lash out with a very angry No.
The last A is to Avoid. We say nothing. We keep silent. We pretend as if nothing is wrong. We do this because we are afraid of offending the other person, so we will rather avoid the issue.
Here are two interesting quotes that capture the effects of “Accommodate” and “Avoid”.
A No uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a Yes uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble – Mahatma Gandhi
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter – Martin Luther King
If you think about these three As, which one do you go to when you mean to say NO?