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  • People Adore Simon Cowell Because He's Not Afraid To Tell Them To Go to Hell - And They'll Like You More if You Do the Same

People Adore Simon Cowell Because He's Not Afraid To Tell Them To Go to Hell - And They'll Like You More if You Do the Same

Dissension can be a force for good

Click here to read this story on Medium.com

Someone who looks like Simon Cowell looking like he’s about to say “Go to Hell” - Created in Midjourney

Simon Cowell has made a career out of telling people to go to hell, or at least to get off his stage. He also tells people when they’ve sung it out of the park, and when he does, people believe him.

There’s a valuable lesson here. Don’t be nice all the time. You’ll be more successful if, sometimes, you tell people to go to hell instead.  

I tell Amazon to go to hell

A few years before I sold my company, Audiobooks.com, I was contacted by Amazon. We were starting to take a tiny bit of their market share in the audiobook market because we had better software and let our staff use the bathroom whenever they wanted. 

I was excited — did Amazon want to buy my company?

After a preliminary exchange of emails my lawyer, James, and I sat together to take a call from a senior business development VP at Amazon. I’ll call him something neutral, let’s go with Lucifer. As we talked about how we could work together, Lucifer suggested that they wanted to keep an eye on our growth, and they’d like an option of first refusal on buying the company. 

He was condescending. My company was tiny, he said. My company wasn’t affecting them, he said. But they were being generous and wanted to encourage our success, he said.

I didn’t know any better and it seemed like a great offer to me. Amazon had just said they might-possibly-some-day-perhaps want to consider buying my company (if someone else showed interest first). Woo hoo?

Before I could respond to Lucifer’s offer, James leaned across me and spoke tersely into the speakerphone, “Give us a second.” 

He then punched the mute button, turned to me and said, “Sanjay, tell him to go to hell!”

James was livid, and I was about to find out why. “They’re going to take that right of first refusal, let everyone know they have it, and make you untouchable by any other buyer,” he explained, “Then they’ll come in and lowball you. Tell him to go straight to hell.”

Years later and wiser I know this is an established strategy by Amazon, and they take advantage of poor suckers like me all day long. I was saved by James. After I got back on the call and politely told Lucifer that I wasn’t interested, I got more respect from him. He wasn’t condescending any more. 

We went on to have a good working relationship as we continued to compete, and I eventually sold Audiobooks.com to a more generous buyer.

Nothing happens until someone says no

I’ve never been happy with a deal that was too easy. When I bought out my partner at Audiobooks.com, I was starting to wonder if I was overpaying. When we met to sign the paperwork he asked me, “If I turned this paper around right now and asked you to sell to me instead, would you do it?”

In that moment I saw the deal falling apart. He was telling me to go to hell and asking me if I wanted the bus fare. There was only one answer I could give. I said, “Give me the pen.”

Satisfied with my answer, he kept the pen, and signed the company over to me. We were both happier, because we were both willing to say no. We could see hell, but didn’t want to go there.

The best deal I ever got was when a competitor to Audiobooks.com wanted to sell a portion of their business to us. I wanted to buy it, but we didn’t have the cash to make the purchase. I apologized to the other CEO and said, “I’m so sorry, I know this business is worth two million, but we don’t have the cash. I have $250,000 that I could pay, but I don’t want to embarrass myself or you by making such a low offer.”

He said “I appreciate your candour,” and we ended the call. No deal.

The next day he called me back to tell me they would take the $250k. But first he had had to say no.

Until someone says no, nothing ever gets done. Until someone says no, someone is going to feel cheated.

When, years later, I was approached to sell Audiobooks.com myself, I was offered a fair price, and I immediately said no. As a result, I ended up getting triple what I thought was a fair price. It’s a good thing I told Lucifer to go to hell.

Have you ever made someone an initial offer on something and had them say “Yes” without trying to negotiate with you? How did that make you feel? If you’re like most people, it made you feel like you should have offered less. You got what you wanted at a price you thought was fair, but then you felt cheated. 

You’re not doing anybody a favour by accepting the first offer that is made. Always say no, otherwise the other party isn’t going to feel good about the deal. You’re doing them a favour by negotiating. As Monty Python would say, “You’ve got to learn to haggle,” even if you don’t like to haggle. 

There are many scenarios in which being too amenable doesn’t make people feel better. Nobody wants to do business with someone who’s too easy to do business with. Be a little difficult, give the other person the satisfaction of bringing you onto their side. 

Don’t return phone calls or emails immediately, it makes you seem desperate. 

Don’t say “I’m free all day,” it makes it seem like nobody wants to do business or hang out with you. 

I can’t just drop everything to deal with your hair crisis, I’m not free all day! — created in Midjourney

Create friction to smooth the path

There is a more subtle form of telling people to go to hell, and it’s called friction. You don’t need my help to think of a situation where no friction is no fun and where too much friction is painful. Just a little bit of friction is the sweet spot. 

Don’t compliment people non-stop without interspersing the occasional criticism, otherwise you won’t be taken seriously. 

When you first meet someone, say something genuine that is complimentary. But if you really want them to like you, also say something genuine that is negative. It will make them trust you.

“That’s a really nice watch, it goes well with your shoes.”

“Why thank you!” (smiling)

“Your lipstick is lovely, but a brighter colour would really bring out your eyes!”

“Oh, um thank you.” (blushing) 

The first comment generates likeability. The second generates likeability and respect. 

In the early years of my marriage, when my wife would ask me what I thought about this or that jewelry, or shoes, I would say, “They both look great.” Sue me, she looks great in everything, why should I create friction?

But no, this response did not make her happy. She said, “You don’t care how I look!”

So I started to say random things. 

“Those earrings don’t sparkle enough,” and,

“Are those shoes comfortable?” and,

“That green colour looks like poodle vomit.”

She was happier, and I realized that the friction of me not liking certain things made her happier about the things I did like. 

But I still don’t understand jewelry. When a man shows me his expensive watch, I think moron, while saying out loud, “That’s a really nice watch, it goes well with your green shoes. Do you own a poodle?” 

And then I check the time on my Apple Watch and walk away. It’s my private way of saying “go to hell.”

If you’re uncertain how to behave, then take a cue from genuine alpha men and women. Would they send a text asking why you haven’t gotten back to them? No. They would already have forgotten about you.

When you’re negative, when you take 3 days to respond, when you express a lack of agreeability, you’re providing the other person with the satisfaction of a small win. It’s a little bit of friction that makes things smoother.

You want to make great deals and form great working relationships? The next time someone calls you to make a deal, you know what to do.

Tell them to go to hell.

  1. I should have said “Go to Hell” to AI stock picking.

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