3 Tricks for Saying 'No'
You've done it again: said "yes" to something that's guaranteed to turn into a time suck and frustrate you to no end. It may be a request from client who demands more than he pays for, or a friend or family member who insists on lunch today because she has a problem that only you can help her solve (again).
Still, even though it is next to impossible to add more to your plate, the "yes" falls off of your tongue before you allow yourself time to think. You give in without much hesitation; in spite of the fact that it means working longer hours, dealing with your own frustration, and even a little resentment. Sound familiar?
It's not logic that leads us to the regrettable yes; it's guilt, fear, and habit--none of which should actually guide us in our decision-making.
Here are a few important tips for people who shy away from a resounding no when a weak yes seems easier. You will find that the ever-powerful no is much more productive and satisfying when you take the time to consider your options, and your priorities.
1. Understand your own motivations.
Do you cave into the demands of many, or just those few people who know how to coax the yes out of you with ease? If you are in the pattern of giving in to every demand in spite of the resulting burden, it may be a good idea to work with a coach or someone who can help you achieve a better balance. The stress of the yes far outweighs the power of no; it's worth the work to better understand your actions and create change.
If it's a matter of one or two people who weaken your resolve, ask yourself why you give in to them so easily. Do they exercise a power over you that results in guilt or fear of a negative outcome if you reject their request? These situations are like an unwritten contract that says, "You ask, I give in, and we all pretend to be happy." Is it time to rewrite that contract? This first step of understanding your actions may be just enough to motivate you in the direction of a healthy no when appropriate.
2. Calculate the true cost of your burdens.
The burden that accompanies the too frequent yes is cumulative. What if you said no to everything that is not in your best interest, just for one month? Make a list of the recent instances when you agreed to something that took you away from your main priorities. I'm not talking about a much needed day off or taking a break to workout with your workout buddy; think about the times that were counter-productive and that you later regretted.
Now add up the time cost. Not just the time you spent away from your priorities, but the emotional time cost as well. How much time did you spend worrying, struggling with regret, and even resentment? These emotional burdens slow us down! What might you have achieved if all of this time was put toward something more productive? Imagine the possibilities!
3. Create a reminder.
When you are not confident about your ability to stay strong in delivering a no, create a physical reminder to keep you focused on the desired outcome. This could be a note that says, "Don't give in!" or, if the meeting is in person, it might be a bracelet, ring, or a red pen; something that you don't usually carry or wear.
Remember, even in the face of a strong argument, you have a right to do one of two things; stick to your guns and say no, or exercise your right to a delayed response. There is no need to answer on the spot, tell them you'll get back to them. Now take the time to reach out to your coach or mentor, make a pros and cons list, or whatever else will lead to a healthy answer. People are usually more accepting of a "no" when you deliver it with confidence and an alternative solution if there is one.
Step into the power of no! The key is to do it kindly, with confidence, and to keep your own best interest in mind. Sure, there are times when it's best to go that extra mile for someone else, but consider the cost on both sides before making that decision. Strike a healthy balance; you'll see the positive results in your business and your state-of-mind!
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.