Saying no the right way — taking things away from people while keeping them on your side — seems like it’s becoming an increasingly crucial skill. Came across three bits in the last few days that echoed this idea…

1) Marco says, “Making a product better often requires removing features.”

Dealing with the negative feedback is tough. Every feature removal, even if minor, is greeted with an initial barrage of emails from people whose lives I have just completely ruined by this change to my free website or my $5 iPhone application…It’s especially tough with web and iPhone apps, for which there’s no good way, or no way at all, for the offended customers to just keep using the old version.

But the result, once the fire has died down, is a much better product for the majority of customers.

If I could never remove features, I’d never add any.

2) A day after reading that, I heard Thomas Friedman discuss how the next generation of political leaders will need to focus on taking things away from voters.

We’re entering an era where being in politics is gonna be, more than anything else, about taking things away from people.

You think it’s tough removing a feature from an iPhone app? Try being a politician that takes away a group’s pet entitlement program.

3) And here’s environmentalist Yvon Chouinard in the trailer for 180south (synopsis):

The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex. The solution for a lot of the world’s problems may be to turn around and take a forward step. You can’t just keep trying to make a flawed system work.