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People just can’t say no

I’m literally having a bad-hair day. An incident happened to me a few days ago when I went into a hair salon in Phnom Penh, and it became my inspiration for this week’s column.

I had been to this salon before to have my hair styled, and trusted the staff, but this recent visit was another story.

The stylist suggested I trim the edges of my hair, as it would be a lot easier to style.

I was hesitant but didn’t say no, and slowly the hair began falling on the floor.

The stylist went crazy with her scissors and began layering my hair, and within a few minutes I went from long hair to a layered, medium-length cut. And this is what you call a trim?

I wasn’t happy with my new look – I was shocked – but it was a bit too late to say, “No, don’t cut my hair.”

Is saying no difficult for you? Well, you’re not alone.

It’s common for people to say yes because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or because they don’t want to be rude.

These are the people-pleasers: the ones who can never say no to anyone for anything.

Many people think that being a people-pleaser is an inborn personality trait.

 The late clinical psychologist Harriet Braiker claimed this trait was caused by socialisation, and was something that could be overcome.

In Cambodia, the people-pleasers are tuk-tuk drivers, motodops and restaurant staff, as they never say no. They will say yes to be polite, when they really mean no.

The Cultural Competency Task Force of the Guilford Community Collaborative has reported that Cambodians don’t like confrontations, and avoiding the situation by saying yes is a lot easier than saying no.

Another reason for saying yes is the Scarcity Principle: the Rule of the Few, as it is described in Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, Science and Practice. It is also considered to be one of the six weapons of influence.

Opportunities seem more valuable when they are less available, and the possibility of losing something is invariably a more powerful motivator than the prospect of gaining something.

The overall message is, if you don’t say yes to the offer, you will lose out.

Tuk-tuk drivers will say yes despite not knowing the location you ask to go to – an experience witnessed by many tourists, foreigners and myself.

There’s no formula you can apply to learning how to say no. You have to consistently work at it.

The most powerful leaders are those who have the power, when appropriate, to say no.

At the end of the day, it’s about how you say no, rather than the fact you’re saying no, that affects the outcome.

All of us have your own priorities and needs, and saying no is about respecting and valuing your own time and space.

And you will find that most people are fine with a politely delivered no.

In fact, no is the  most powerful word out there.

It needs no explanation.



The Social Agenda with Soma Norodom
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.



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