Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The courage to get a "no"

Introspection and learning about yourself is a great resource to drive for personal change. I've been reflecting a lot on what is important to me (the coding crisis) and paying attention to feedback I get on how I do things. This is a story of one of the pieces I've learned during the last year.

I've learned that getting a "No" is very difficult to me. It is so difficult, that I often convince myself of not wanting something I really would want, just to avoid getting a No. And as such, I'm accidentally denying myself of opportunities. Changing a well-learned habit like this is not easy. Sometimes I feel it is not even possible, as it requires pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone that I won't even recognise myself. I've been telling myself that I'm less in avoidance of No in professional life than in private life, but I may be fooling myself.

Let me give you an example. Last autumn I met a man. Clearly there was something special about him, since we're nowadays dating, but looking back at us ending up on a date is an interesting thing in retrospect. I was about to go out to dance by myself and instead of asking him if he would like to join me (direct question that could be replied with a No), I made a statement about my plans with him asking if he could join.

Looking at this later I started to see a pattern, with other incidents on clear avoidance of the No. I would think I'm asking by stating a possibility that can be interpreted as opening an option. But I would also feel very safe from the potential No, as I wasn't really asking. And since I realised this, I've been seeing myself doing this a lot, everywhere and in particular at work - trusting people to pick up questions framed as statements. Sometimes they do. But when they don't, I either let myself believe it wasn't relevant or ask directly, with more courage.

There's been suggestions that this might be a very typical female trait, and that a great way to stretch the limits of women can achieve is to start collecting No's: asking for something you are not even sure if you want or could get and embracing the idea of getting the No. And great people around me report this works brilliantly.

For work I've asked for things, and looking back at that, I've had great results. I got us the expensive router that "this company will never acquire". I got my developers to travel to conferences abroad in in "a company that never trains their developers". I changed the ways we work when "things have always been done this way". But most of my examples are working for the team. The No I might get isn't personal, so it isn't intimidating.

So today is a day to remind myself again: dream big, go for it and never mind the No's. There's a Yes there somewhere. Trying and failing is better than not trying. I need to start collecting and celebrating no's.