Don’t Assume it’s a No

“Ask for what you want. Believe that you deserve it, and then allow Life to give it to you.” Louise Hay

I’m from a small country called Uzbekistan where most shopping is done in bazaars. Bazaars are markets with stalls and all prices are negotiable. There are no price tags or bar codes, you have a conversation with the merchant and bargain. Clothes, food, household goods, everything is available at the bazaars. 

Canada is different. Shortly after we moved here, my mom and I went to Zellers. I was amazed. It was clean and organized. There weren’t people yelling and bargaining. No lamb legs were hanging from the ceiling. The toy aisle was like a wonderland for me. I was in heaven.  

Just as we were about to leave the store my mom found a dress that she fell in love with. It was the last one in her size, so she grabbed it excitedly, took my hand and was ready to go. The only problem was that there was a small rip in the seam, but my mom still wanted the dress. 

As we were walking to the checkout, my mom asked me to translate for her. “Can you ask the lady if she can give us a discount because the dress is ripped?”

I looked up at my mom like she was crazy. “Mom! No! That’s not how it works here!” My mom was completely confused and asked what I meant. So I explained. “Mom, you are being such an immigrant right now!” I grabbed the price tag and showed it to her. “Don’t you see? If it was supposed to be discounted, it would be shown on the price tag. It isn’t some merchant’s stall in a bazaar! This is a store!” 

My mom rolled her eyes at me. With patience, she said, “Just try. It’s worth trying. If the cashier says there is no discount, it is okay. I will still pay the full price. But it is worth asking. How can you assume that she will say no?”

At this point, my cheeks were flushed with anger and embarrassment. “Mom you just don’t get it! You don’t understand Canadians or Canadian culture! Stop it! You are going to embarrass yourself and me!”

My mom let go of my hand. “Ok. I will do it myself.” 

She walked up to the cashier, while I stood there mortified. A million things went through my head. I thought the cashier was going to say no. That she was going to laugh at my mom and me. All I kept thinking was; why does my mom have to act like such an immigrant? 

But my mom persevered. She knew what she wanted. So through broken English and with multiple hand gestures, my mom asked for a discount. The cashier smiled, agreed and punched in 25% off.

I still remember my mom’s smiling face of victory. And my sense of embarrassment. Why did I assume that it was going to be a no? Too often, we all assume that the answer is going to be no. Since I was little, I would always avoid asking for what I wanted. If I didn’t ask, I couldn’t be rejected. There have been many times in my life when I let potential romantic partners walk away because I was afraid of getting no for an answer. Or I have been hesitant to ask for a raise because I assumed that if I deserved a raise, I would be given one. But my experiences at the bazaars and with my mom at Zellers all those years ago remind me that if you want something, ask for it. Don’t assume the answer will be no. Because the only guarantee of getting a no is if you never asked.

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