When No Doesn’t Mean No


Before I began the roller coaster tour I got a lot of noes from theme parks, sponsors, and press. It was basically 99 noes for every yes, which is disappointing and deflating. But I kept rollin’.

I asked for help where I thought I needed it and got even more noes.

For example, one of the people I contacted runs a very large coaster website. There are quite a few coaster enthusiast websites. (I’m not a coaster enthusiast, btw, I just think they’re fun.) I asked him if he could help me as far as getting free tickets to parks since he already had contacts at most of the parks I’d be going to. His response was essentially “Haha, yeah right, they’re not going to give you free tickets.” Although instead of making it that easy he wrote 3 long paragraphs trying to knock me down. :)

My response to that was simple: “Hey, thanks for your help!” Because as you know¬†crabs will always try to bring you down, but you don’t have to let them.

Then I contacted Louis at CoasterFusion and he was not only incredibly supportive, but incredibly helpful. He gave me the contacts he had and I started e-mailing people. Almost immediately I got positive responses. I still got noes, but now we were onto something.

After a few “yes” responses and a few more “no” responses I took a step back to see why some were giving me a yes and some a no. What I saw was that in every case of “no” I was asking the wrong person.

No Isn’t No If It Comes From The Wrong Person

Knowing who you should talk to is just as important as having a solid pitch. If you pitch someone who has no authority then of course you’ll get a negative response. Since they’re not in a position to give you a positive response the negative response is default.

After figuring this out I took the next step. I picked up the phone and started calling the right people. They’re not necessarily easy to find, but it doesn’t take an extraordinary amount of legwork. This strategy worked like gangbusters. My yes/no ratio went from about 50/50 (email) to 95/5 (phone).

If you speak with someone who has the authority to do what you ask they are usually happy to help.

They may even be thrilled to help.

What To Do When You Get A “No”

No matter how solid your pitch you’re still going to hear “no” on a fairly regular basis.

When that happens ask yourself “Is this really a no?”

In other words, is it “no” from a person who has the authority to grant you a “yes”? If so, cutting your losses and moving on might be your best bet. That said, persistence pays! It depends on what you’re doing and how badly you want or need that yes.

Is there some other reason for the no? Maybe the person was busy? Maybe your pitch was off? In this case, it’s probably worth a shot to try again. It may also be a good idea to contact someone else at the organization who has the authority to grant your yes.

No Isn’t No Until It’s No

I know it’s difficult to persist when things might not be going your way, but if you’re trying to achieve anything of value you really have no choice but to keep at it.


How do you deal with “no”?


  1. I guess on some subconscious level, I have worked around that issue when dealing with people who I need to get information from by not asking them head on for what I need, but rather asking them if they know who can help get me to x, y or z.
    I believe two things about most people:
    1) if you are sincere in dealing with people ( and I believe they can even tell on a phone call) they will inherently want to help someone.
    2) knowledge is power and people like demonstrate that they have that power by getting you to the right people… if they feel that you are ( see step 1) sincere.

    To be more demonstrative, I frequently find myself locating hard to find items that people may or may not want to sell. When I find who has x, I won’t call up and ask for x. Instead, I will call up and say I’m trying to find x. Do you know who might be able to help me find x? This usually avoids a no. Even if the person doesn’t want to be bothered, they will usually pass you further on the path in the direction toward “yes”.

    You have made an extremely useful insight that I hadn’t even considered is going on behind the scenes.

    • That’s an interesting approach Glenn. I just go straight into the pitch as soon as I find the person I think can help me, but I like the idea of poking around a bit. It obviously depends on the situation.

  2. My journey began with a devastating “No” or so I thought. The key was to keep moving forward and keep pursuing the ultimate goal. If the initial person had said yes, I never would have met some of the great people I have met. People that are now my friends. I am now thankful for that first no and have tried to keep that in mind as I’ve gone forward.

    I approach it like you, and with any no, I thank them kindly, stay positive and ask someone else. Still, in my situation because some of the people saying no are well known, there is some added disappointment, but I just figure they aren’t meant to be a part of the journey and move on as quickly as possible. Interestingly enough, with every “devastating” no, has come some BIG yeses.

    The key is to not allow a no to stop you. You must keep asking and if you believe in what you’re doing, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

    • Asking yourself if you believe in what you’re doing is important. There might come a point where you realize the noes are there for a reason. Timing, circumstance, anything might be off. And it might not mean that it’s no forever, it might just be no right now.

      A good example: You probably don’t remember, but about 4 years ago we had lunch and I talked about the concept of Only72.com. It didn’t work when I tried it back then because timing was off. Revisit: the past year it has been phenomenal. Timing/circumstances resulted in a huge yes.

  3. Thanks for this Article Karol! This is much more focused than the average “Just keep on pushing forward” advice you often get. While also this advice is true as well in almost any situation in life, it still can lead you to just keep pushing in the wrong direction or, in this case, talking to the wrong people. In the end you might end up with success either way. But your advice seems much more effective: while you push, you might just as well push in the right direction from the first place and not wait until you hit it (i.e. the right person) by accident!
    More of that please! :)
    Oh, and your personal examples (like your personal yes-no-ratio) are really motivating!

    • Thanks Steffen. Oftentimes we (I’m not immune to this) get caught in pushing the wrong way. Nothing we do should be an actual push. It should come with some semblance of ease.

  4. This is great Karol–you stopped me in my tracks with “no isn’t no if it comes from the wrong person”. You’ve hit on an important truth that I will definitely remember–think I’ll even write it down to make sure I remember!

  5. So true. I learned this years back in a very different context–navigating the special ed system for my autistic son. I learned that no was an almost automatic response to a request for services from an understaffed and underfunded system. I learned the “magic language” needed to get the desired yes and if it was still no, I learned how to find the person with the authority to change it to yes. At one point, an amazed service provider looked at me and said, “You know your son gets more services than any other child in this school district.” I just said, “He doesn’t get anything that he isn’t entitled to under the law.”

    Great article about finding your way to yes.

  6. Hi Karol,
    I think we were on the same plight. Well as for us, people were unresponsive unfortunately. So yeah it’s a bit bothersome but as everyone says it, “we gotta do what we gotta do”. And that’s what we’re gonna do. :)
    And I also say to myself often that patience is still a virtue. So let’s not just give up that easily. A project needs to be done.

    Wishing you well and cheers!

  7. I have always loved your posts (though remained a lurker), but you hit on something insightful. I had never thought about the no as coming from the wrong person. I am working on developing persistence, but I’ve always had it brainwashed into my head that no means no.

    I’ve started to ask questions like, ‘what would you do if you were in my situation?’ as a way of endearing the ‘gatekeeper’ to me. Thank you for this post!

  8. I’m a writer, so I hear no all the time. It gets easier. Sort of. I always say that it only takes one person to fall in love with your project and say yes. But your bit about a no not being a no if it comes from the wrong person is brilliant. I’ve never thought of it that way and I’m going to start telling the writers I coach that. Thanks!

  9. Hey Karol, great post. Having the knowledge to find the right people is a great way of putting your foot forward instead of sulking that someone said no.
    My metaphor: It reminds me when I asked 7 or so girls out in the span of a couple of months. They said no because they weren’t in a position to say ‘yes’. (Boyfriends, creeped out, rapport wasn’t built up enough, etc.) So finding the right people is half the battle (no boyfriends, they like your particular charisma, charm, whatever), and then executing the best you can is the other half.

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