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What do you do when someone writes a hate post about your favorite cricket player? You boo him. In fact, saying you did not like something, resented it, hated it, is the easiest thing online.

But can you do the same when faced with critical questions in an important meeting with a co-founder or client or investor?

Most people find it difficult to say NO in face-to-face discussions. In fact, many a times, my dear friend (who I always present as an example of what not to do in life) has landed himself in a soup just because he could not say no to his client, despite knowing full well that what was asked for was not achievable. There have been worse situations when he agreed to his friend’s request for lending money. Yes we all know what happens when you lend money; you neither get the money back nor the friend.

While learning to say NO is important everyone, it is especially important for startup founders. Here is why.

1. You are naive and people will want to take advantage of you.

My friend, let’s call him Blake, landed a meeting with the big boss of a big company who could be a future client. Blake was super excited and pitched a great deal. Throughout the meeting big boss had an expressionless face. BB finally said “Look here now. I have been in this market for X years and what you are proposing is preposterous. I can offer you Y amount for this deal and I am sure no one else will offer you a penny more than that. I am wise, listen to me.” Blake being the simple soul that he was, just could not muster enough confidence to say NO. He ended up agreeing and sold a valuable inventory for zilch.

Don’t let people walk all over you!

2. Saying NO today will benefit you in the longer run.

Another time Blake was confronted by his co-founder who was jumping with excitement. He had just had a crazy new idea of becoming rich overnight. He said “Hey Blake! We absolutely must buy cheap second hand cars, get cheap drivers, then send them off for a certain cab company’s pickups. I have heard that they are offering great rates!” He proceeded to do the math and showed great figures. Blake was simple, but he knew the math better. He finally said NO. This really saved him as it was later well known that the “great rates” lasted only as long as the company was trying to get more cars.

3. Nobody will kill you or dump you just because you said NO.

In the get-cars-make-money episode, his co-founder though was initially disappointed, did not keep a long face for long. See! Nobody breaks off ties with you just because you said NO. It is perfectly fine to be in disagreement at times!

Well, most of the time….

4. You will learn to be more assertive.

Meeting with an investor is synonymous to being put in a cage of hungry lions. You will be questioned on your belief in the company’s vision, cross questioned on the numbers, and ripped apart when it comes to negotiations. Being confident and assertive will not only make you look a better candidate in the eyes of the investor, but also land you a better deal.

5. You will develop superpowers of analyzing and pro-acting.

Once you learn to say no politely [remember to always be polite], you will start mentally making lists of pros and cons of any given situation. Being calculative would a trait that will balance out your risk taking nature (having launched a startup, you definitely are a risk taker!). Tomorrow if you have to analyze an issue in your company, you will be more easily able to identify what is going to wrong and how to set it right.

6. Your team will be more driven to achieve goals.

As children, when we wanted to buy something, we went to that parent who would be easier to convince. Now if that parent (say mother) said “You will have to ask Dad about it”, immediately the child starts getting goosebumps. There are of course higher chances of Dad saying no to your new dream bicycle. But if he said yes, oh you would be on cloud nine!

Similarly if your team members know that you are a difficult to convince, they will work harder to get that one “Well Done!” from you.

A NO a day, keeps the headaches away!

Here is Michael Scott teaching you the perfect way to say NO!

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