The Fast No

There is nothing that beats a fast “no”. Doesn’t matter what language, what circumstance, what context — a fast “no” is the greatest gift to receive.

Don’t mistake a fast no with every other type of “no” that is used. There is the “no, but” <– NOT a fast no. What about “not now”? Nope. Not a fast no. Anything without a concrete, 2-letter, hard end or anything remotely sounding optimistic is absolutely, 100% NOT a fast no.

So why is a fast no such a gift? How can that little word, usually the first one out of toddlers mouth or the thing you yell at your dog to stop bitting strangers, be a good thing?

Two reasons.

The first is obvious. It’s the end of a line of conversation. If you’ve ever tried to raise any kind of venture financing you know that VCs are notoriously vague with their answers. Only the good VCs that know and follow their investment thesis say no quickly. The rest string you along for fear of missing something — anything — that pops. They want to keep their options open. Often you’ll hear “let us know when you find a lead” <– that’s a “no”. Or, you’ll hear “circle back with me in a month” <– NO! The fear of that little word is real and sometimes you need it to move on.

The second reason is not so obvious. A fast no is sometimes the real start of the conversation. If someone can say “no” it means they have a line and you are on the other side of that line. A fast no means they can define why “no” makes sense for them. This is glorious. It means you can ask why they said no. It there truly isn’t a fit you are liberated. You are free to move on. There is no more baggage, no follow ups, no awkward emails or calls. But sometimes there IS a fit and the “no” helps clear up any confusion or misconception. Yup, “no” can be a conversation starter. I’ve seen it happen. Often.

Getting to a fast no takes courage from you. YOU need to be able to give the other side the permission to say it. At the end of every optimistic investment pitch or sales call I like to ask a variation of the “asshole” question (nicely, of course): Do you see a fit here? Can we work together? Does this fit your business/investment requirements? We often don’t want to hear no so we avoid asking for it.

Getting to a “no” is a gift — often AS valuable as a “yes” — but anything in between is pure anguish.