Well there’s an interesting title. "No" is usually associated with bad people. It’s something we don’t look forward to hearing as it means we’re not getting what we’ve asked for. It’s used by people stopping our progress. People who just aren’t team players; but HANG ON ONE SECOND!
The power of a kind, well placed and diplomatic no is one of life’s greatest lessons and it’s careful use can open a gateway for your growth and ultimately a better outcome for everyone. Let’s explore how you can use this often underused word to make everyone happier in the end; most importantly YOU!
How do you feel when you think of the word “no”? What does it mean to you? It’s an interesting thought exercise as it has different meanings to different people. Are you the person that finds it easy to say no? Perhaps you’re using it in the wrong way, or too much? If you’re the type of person who is run ragged and finds yourself putting off important personal things at the expense of helping others or keeping appointments, then you should probably use it more.
The thing is, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It doesn’t have to mean you won’t do something or help someone. It may just mean that you won’t be doing it in line with someone else’s agenda!
So consider this for a moment. The next time someone asks you to do something, PAUSE. Just take a moment before that habitual “Yes, OK” response and ask yourself a question. Is it necessary to say yes right now? Do I want to do this at all? If I want to do this, shall I agree now, or shall I postpone to another time when it is more convenient for me? By asking these questions it will interrupt your pattern of immediately saying yes, or feeling you have to say yes and give you an alternative outcome.
This may seem like basic simple stuff, but I’m telling you now it’s potentially life changing! Very quickly you will find that you’re working more closely to your plans and still satisfying the stakeholders that matter in your life. It’s a wonderful thing!
Another interesting result of saying no is that it opens up a potential negotiation. If you start with no and the other party remains persistent in asking for your time, then try asking for something in return for a yes! “OK, I’ll do that for you, but it means I’ll fall behind with another project. Could you do me a favour and organise a meeting with the team so we can delegate some tasks?” If you start with no then you might get a little more balance in the transaction.
Try some of these things in the week ahead and let us know how you get on. Repetition is the mother of skill, so we recommend you practice often by saying no :-)
- A great place to start is to decide what you’d like to achieve in the next few weeks. All those things that you just don’t have time for. It might be visiting family, going on a date, getting your hair cut, going to the gym, doing your Christmas shopping, cooking yourself and your partner or family a fresh meal. Have fun with it and make a list. You’re going to get to do all these things and having a clear picture of the outcome of your new habit will provide leverage and allow you to better follow through with the experiment.
- Book your activities into your diary. If in two weeks time you have decided to visit your friend in Scotland for 3 days, then book it in. If something comes up that conflicts, you know what to do. Just say no. How did that feel?
- If someone asks if you can meet them to go through a proposal or idea at work make sure it’s on your terms. If you can’t do it because you have other commitments, politely give them a time when it IS convenient. If they can’t make that appointment then just say no. See what happens!
- If you’ve got children you might be familiar with this already! If they ask for something, say no. If they are persistent then negotiate by saying they can have what they want if they….. clean their room, do the vacuuming, mow the lawn, clean the car. It delivers a clear lesson that there is value in any personal transaction and it will assist them in later life. It might even turn them into a top negotiator!
Often people who habitually say yes are taken advantage of by some individuals. If someone asks you for something and you’d really rather not do it, SAY NO! This is one of the hardest ones for many people (whilst others find it extremely easy). You may be surprised at the other person's response. Stick to your guns.
In the end if what we’ve done is to raise awareness of the fact that you can say no and give yourself some time to do the things your want and need to do, then it’s served it’s purpose. If it’s given you food for thought, then our mission is accomplished. Just don’t forget!
Finally I just thought I’d share something. This lesson crystalised after an opportunity came by for me to catch up with the legend Chaz Davies. For those who don’t know Chaz, he’s a World Superbike rider (Aruba.it Ducati Team) and an incredible human being.
My schedule was super hectic and I was really struggling with my inner dialogue around trying to make time for the adventure to visit Chaz at his home in Wales. It meant that I would have to say NO to a number of people and projects and I was really struggling with the whole process. In the end I made the right decision to say no and arrange to make the long journey into the countryside.
Arriving at Chaz’s extreme sports playground, you are spoilt for choice on what toys to ride, starting the days with a highland cross country runs chasing the sheep around, then ending with a endurance trials bike challenges through his private woodland… Needless to say this was one of the best action packed weekends I’d ever experienced.
In years to come I will not remember the things I thought were urgent, but I’ll never forget that time with my mate riding our bikes and just loving life.
Try saying no a little more often and see what happens. It’s LIBERATING!