“And ‘no’ is a fine answer”

One of my jobs is to ask people from the community if they are willing to work outside the commune for different combinations of money and labor credits.    We call this “Outside Work”.

This comes in lots of different flavors.  We do some elder care, software development, some house cleaning, some construction, we swap in and out a specialty basketball floor at a local arena and we do a fair amount of demolition.

The problem with managing Outside Work is that you have to be willing to ask lots of people if they are game for this work and you have to be willing to hear a lot of “no”s to get the crews filled.  This is something i excel in.  As long as i am asking for “us” collectively, i can hear a lot of declines.  i am far less able to do this when i am asking for personal favors for myself.

As with many things in the community, it spins around relationship building.  It is more important for me to be able to ask people, without creating a tension or obligation, than it is for me to get a “yes” answer for any particular request.  This is why i very often say to anyone who does not immediately respond with a “yes” to my request that “No is a fine answer”.  Empowered to say “no” and knowing that it is accepted without presuring on my side, almost always engenders people’s willingness to be asked again for a different or similar request.  Members often feel like they need to give me an excuse or a reason why they cant do something i am asking, and i often cut them off.  They dont need to explain why they are unavailable, simple desire being absent is enuf for me to move on to the next possible candidate for the job.  What i am looking for is a type of frictionless communication, where we can step into the dialog and easily step back out again, with no guilt or bad feelings.

“So the job starts at 7 AM, but it is in Crozet, so you need to leave at 6 …”