Employer Insights

Blocking: Why You Should Never Start with 'No'

Mark Smith Posted by Mark
min read
Gwen King M3th3r Iq9 W Unsplash

As a teenager, I used to very much enjoy Theatresports. It was a form of impromptu theatre that was on ABC TV briefly as a competition and for at least the last 25 years has been a staple on the Sydney theatre scene as the Cranston Cup. Essentially, the idea is that four teams compete by acting out scenes in a particular format, e.g. in the form of an opera, based on topics provided by the audience. The best teams are those that think quickly, are creative, and can communicate effectively, both nonverbally and with their voices.

A famous champion that everyone in Australia would know is Andrew Denton, and occasionally he still cameos in the Cranston Cup. The reason I bring this part of my past up is a concept called blocking. Blocking is where you can kill a scene, a flow of ideas and your chances of winning in one easy word: NO. An example in Theatresports would be something like this: 'Oh look over there. Can you see the elephant?' You block the scene if your answer is, 'No, I don't.' If you were not blocking and you wanted to keep the scene running, then your answer would be something like, 'Yes, and how on earth did they get that tutu on him?!'

Just like Theatresports, in business, those people around you who block will stifle the energy and innovation of a company. In my experience, this is particularly evident in Australian business culture. We tend to the negative, looking for ways we can't do something, rather than finding the reasons why we should. I am sure those readers who are in business have all sat in a brainstorming session where you have a few people coming up with ideas and others are simply saying, 'No, that won’t work,' or you have a boss that says 'NO' to every idea. Blocking is all too common and can frustrate business and personal relationships. Many people start their sentences with 'No.' 

You may suggest going out for a bite to eat and then they say something like, 'No, I think we should cook at home.' By simply changing a few words in the sentence, the person blocking can open up a whole new line of thinking. For example, they could have responded by saying, 'Sure, or we could stay at home and invent our own bites.' By acknowledging the other idea and then adding your own dimension, the conversation and ideas can flow and develop. 'No' stops all of this in its tracks. 

My old school friends and I would say to each other, 'No blocking!' when we were spending time together on the weekends and when we were trying to win our local Theatresports competition. Similarly, I would suggest anyone reading this post should point out to everyone, including yourself, when you are blocking. A good place to start is to never start a sentence with 'No' and watch how the ideas keep flowing.