How to Overcome A "Slow No" Rejection

Leave it to the geniuses at to put a name to describe what many of us experience daily: The “California No”

* For the uninitiated, Miriam Webster’s Dictionary, this is not! is a site that keeps you up on the latest slang, phrases and language so you don’t sound like a complete relic in front of your children or young employees, instead you just sound like a wannabe hipster).

According to the Urban Dictionary, a “California No” is defined as – “Instead of bluntly saying "no," Californians say no by avoiding the question, forgetting to respond to emails, and generally postponing the issue. The best way to give a California No is to do nothing at all, as opposed to saying it outright.”

I know that isn’t very fair or flattering to Californians, because really it’s not exclusive to them. C’mon, all of us have used this at one point or another. I skillfully used a variation of it on one of my children here in Texas this past weekend as in,  “Dad, Will you take me to Game Stop so I can get Grand Theft Auto 5 for Xbox?”  To which I responded, “We’ll see.” (translated: Not a snowball’s chance in %&$% little man.)

Let’s look at a real example from the professional world.  “I sent my resume, had an interview or talked to the hiring manager, etc.. six weeks ago and I can’t get a return call or email.” Allow me to use my years of experience as an executive recruiter to translate the silence or deafening sound of crickets, “You aren’t going to hear from them…. ever!”

The “California No” happens daily to sales people, job seekers, first dates gone bad, even recruiters and countless others all over the world. 


As someone who has received and regretfully given the “California No” over the course of my career… simply put, they suck no matter how skillfully executed. At best, they’re time wasters, give false hope or are disingenuous. 

You aren’t doing any favors or letting anyone down easily by couching a “no” in an evasive and ambiguous package that takes weeks to unwrap, decipher and read between the lines. And you do nothing but foster ill will and frustration by going silent and hoping they “get the message and stop calling.” 

So what’s the answer? There is no simple answer. This is just how some people operate. But there are a couple of things to consider next time you find yourself in a situation where you may either give or receive a “California No”.

Give the freedom to say, “No”. Some people can’t say no. They don’t want to hurt your feelings or disappoint you and will do anything to avoid giving you a direct no. They really aren’t doing you a favor. Take the initiative by giving them an easy out or cracking open the door to be direct so that you can get a definitive answer and closure. 

 A couple of things you can say, “I certainly don’t want to waste your time or be a nuisance continuing to contact you unnecessarily, but I’d like to know where we stand so I can consider appropriate next steps or if I need to go in a different direction.”

They might not like the answer, but they will respect you for it. If you’re in a situation where you have to deliver bad news, rejection or a negative response, it is better for your professional reputation to be direct. Let’s face it, stuff happens. Things really DO fall through the cracks. Overwhelm and overload happen and you can’t return every call or email. 

But my point is, when confronted directly say “yes” or “no” and bring some closure for yourself and the other person.  Sometimes you really don’t know or the answer is a genuine “maybe”… well then say so.

By not being direct and avoiding direct communication (or any communication) rather than saying “no” or “not interested” does the other person and your organization a disservice. You are also throwing away trust and respect that person has for you and your company and they walk away with an even worse impression. 

While no one likes it, most adults can take bad news, but nobody wants to feel as if they’re having their chain pulled, being played with or are not being taken seriously.

Job seekers often look for something positive as they read between the lines looking for hope, when sometimes hope is not to be had. I think of the Jim Carey in the movie “Dumb and Dumber” when he asks the pretty girl if there is any chance she is interested in him.

“What are my chances?”

“Not Good.”

“Not good like one out of hundred?”

“Not good like one in a million.”

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance? Yeah!!!!”

Cut them loose, end it, put a bullet in it, do the right thing and set them free to pursue something else. People may not like to hear “no” but they respect hearing a straightforward answer and not being left to spin their wheels holding on to a one in a million chance. I didn’t say they will leave happy, but they will leave feeling that they were respected and treated fairly regardless of the end result.

What do you think? What are some of your tactics for dealing with a soft or evasive no or slow play? Share your thoughts and comments below or shoot me an email at And if you found this valuable, please feel free to share with others. 

Channel your inner 80's Nancy Reagan and just say "No"... when appropriate. 

Have a great week, now go be unstoppable!


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