Explanation and Concession

Inspired by a talk with a colleague, I have this piece of advice to offer. If you are asked something you don’t want to grant and feel it’s an imposition to ask, say no and don’t offer any explanations. The moment you start explaining the reasons for the refusal, you lose power. People who explain why not open themselves to a possibility that their arguments can be contested. Remember this: an explanation is halfway to concession.

2 thoughts on “Explanation and Concession

  1. “The moment you start explaining the reasons for the refusal, you lose power.”

    Agree in many cases (you don’t owe anyone an explanation), but it’s probably worth pointing out that there are situations where giving an explanation can in at least some cases make you look more authoritative or reasonable than the requester, not necessarily weaker or more powerless than them. I think giving an explanation isn’t always a sign of weakness and fear of the requester though it often can be.

    Also, I think pre-existing power differentials/relationships with others could be taken into account.

    If a young adult kid begs her parent for cash, I think it may not make the parent look weaker or less authorative to say “No, because you’re a grown-ass person capable of working that no longer needs to rely on her parent.” than to say “No.” period.

    If a drunk living paycheck-to-paycheck begs his friend to buy him another drink, the friend saying “look, buddy, you’re totally wasted. I’m your friend and everything but come on, you can’t keep mooching of your friends and also you need to take responsibility for your life” than to say “No” and that’s it.

    If your boss makes an impossible-to-fulfill or even just difficult to perform request, an employee could fear saying “No” without explanation. Saying “no” without explanation might seem a bold move, but also saying “look, (insert explanation) and explaining to the boss that literally it cannot be done or would be unreasonable as a request” could also be a move (we risk the boss rejecting the explanation and thinking it’s an excuse and you losing power true, but also if things go well the boss actually figures things out and sees the light. Tough call). You giving an explanation of why things should be done or not done the way they should be can make you look good and capable (or risk making you look bad and incapable) in front of others in the meeting room.

    In some cases a sharp “no” to others is definitely the better move if you don’t expect future cordial relations with them at all (don’t want to date someone, just say “no”, “goodbye, see ya”). Probably for people you care about, it’s worth thinking about if it’s worth giving them an explanation to allay their disappointment or “make them understand” or not.

    That’s if the other person’s well-being is something you care (and then their well-being is part of your “winning” in a win-win situation) about too, not just adversarial negotiation.

    But yeah, I agree often people err on the side of justifying decisions they don’t need to justify.

    Liked by 1 person

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