The Silent No



This is the beginning of what will one day be a book, written just as soon as I come up with some genius formula for handling The Silent No.

If you’re not familiar with the phrase, it is when rather than giving you a ‘no’, or ‘check back in a few weeks’ in regards to whatever it is that you may be discussing, the person you are in conversation with simply ignores you in the hopes you’ll go away.  Rather than have to deal with a difficult ( 2-second) situation or having to justify their answer (ok fair enough but surely not to those you have a working relationship with?) they simply ignore all further communication with you until, after weeks of frustration and not-knowing, you eventually crawl back under your rock.

I’m discovering that in business development, many don’t like to ever give a ‘no’ in case they want to later change their mind or worse, in case I’m the next Facebook and they become that idiot that turned down Facebook.

I’m also discovering that in general, if someone is busy and doesn’t want to engage in a conversation that week, they also will simply ignore you – sometimes for weeks – until the point in time in which they are ready to again proceed.

The trouble is – both situations look on the surface like The Silent No.  The solution?  Weekly diary reminders to ’email Frank again to touch base’ until eventually the stars align and he is ready to move forward or until I finally lose the will to live and relegate Frank’s details to the  ‘if we ever are really really successful don’t let this guy use our tech’ pile.

Like I said, I don’t yet have a genius formula, but would love to hear from those of you that think you might have insight… or who just want to rant.

6 Thoughts on “The Silent No

  1. I hate the Silent No! Though I admit, I’ve been guilty of it now and again. There have been some times I’ve just not been sure what to say. And then, usually, I forget to respond until I check all my unread emails (I mark those emails I need to respond to as unread after reading so I don’t forget to read them. And then forget to read them) and catch up on everything.

    Sigh. But the larger issue here is that some people ask and ask and ask and ask and sometimes falling silent is easier that any other response, because they are simply relentless.

    I feel as if I’m all over the place in this, but the Silent No is usually a cop-out.

    • Rebecca Sherrod Patching on February 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm said:

      True! When someone is going down the hard-sell route it is a pain and not something you want to engage with. For me that’s more ignoring an initial attempt though, rather than suddenly ducking out a conversation mid-way.

  2. I like to think that the only time I use the silent no, on purpose, is when I’m getting a hard sell from someone.

    One issue that can make for the occasional accidental silent no, is the multiple device problem… you open an email on your phone on your way home for example, neglect to add a flag / label / mark as unread – then at your desktop / laptop again you forget – that I must admit can happen to me.

    • Rebecca Sherrod Patching on February 4, 2013 at 11:41 pm said:

      Definitely agree on the hard sell – Life has moved on too far for that to still be a good means of communication and building a business.

      I’m guilty too of forgetting! I guess the difference being human error vs bailing on a conversation mid-way.

  3. Mario Sahe-Lacheante on February 5, 2013 at 2:35 am said:

    In the freelancer’s world, The Silent No is up there with the ‘Death and Taxes’ certainties of life. Annoying with potential clients; frustrating with existing ones, even if the latter one is more a case of being ignored in the busy-ness of life despite your best efforts to find what you need to do a good job in time.
    Visionaries are probably the worst people to be given this silent treatment, as they can often see potential and ideas beyond the scope of the person handing out the lame no-no, especially if it’s due to bureaucratic reasons or something else equally lame.

    Often The Silent No also comes at the most undesired times, like in the Winter months when work can be slow and there’s always that one thing you hope comes through but almost inevitably sits and mocks you until the new year when, as you say, you either give up, get the official ‘no’ or perhaps Mr/Ms Ignoramus eventually says yes.

    What I’ve had to learn is to play my part, do what I can short of being annoying, and let it go in the knowledge that my life will go on without it and I’ll find something else and something better, but that I must always retain the confidence to rise above any sense of rejection or grievance towards this muted ‘no’.
    If you let it get to you in any way you’ll risk harming your chances to run your course with any strength to conquer all the ‘yeses’ and deal with any other ‘nos’ further down the line.

    If, in your search, you find the Holy Grail of formulas against The Silent No, please do share!

    • Rebecca Sherrod Patching on February 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm said:

      You’re absolutely right that you can’t let it get to you – also to not take it personally! I will most certainly update with my discoveries as I go along… even just the comments to this post are the beginnings of insight.

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