There was a time when I would say yes to everything. Not because I thought I had the ability to do it all, but because I felt I looked lazy if I wasn’t doing something all the time. I had to learn to say no.
There was also an issue of how to handle things I didn’t want to do; a sense of obligation to every social invitation or event taking place. Perhaps it was a sense of wanting to please people. I didn’t have a “reason” for not wanting to go, so felt obligated. I had to learn to say no.
I’d be lying if I said I never struggle with it today. However, I’ve learned how important it is to preserve time, my most valuable resource. I had to learn to say no.
Top tips for saying “no”
Keep it simple: don’t try and complicate things. Don’t concocted elaborate reasons or excuses. A simple, “thanks for asking, but I’m not able to…” is enough. You don’t need the asker’s permission to say no.
Focus on your goals and priorities: If you have a plan for managing your work and time, it is easier to say no to new activities that don’t fit into your agenda. There’s a saying that goes, “A person who does not have goals is used by someone who does.”
Be assertive and courteous: Try saying something like, “I’m sorry I’m not able to right now, but will let you know when and if I can.” This approach is polite, and puts you in a position of power by taking charge of the exchange, telling people you’ll let them know.
Look for compromises: Perhaps you feel the request is good, but you can’t meet the requirement right now. Look for ways to move the request forward that works for both parties. Be careful that compromising is not just another way to avoid saying “no”.
Leave it open-ended: Sometimes you’re in a position where you can’t say no for sure. A year ago, I was asked to consider becoming president of our Rotary Club for this year. At the time I was asked, I couldn’t say yes due to some unknowns coming in the new year. I said “no” at that moment but told them to ask again early in year. They came back in February and I was able to say yes, as the unknowns had been defined.
IT’S NOT ABOUT SAYING “NO” TO EVERYTHING
Sometimes you need to say “yes” to further your personal goals and priorities. Perhaps you have a goal of becoming a subject-matter expert in a particular topic or area. Getting your name out there might involve extra speaking engagements, or some side-hustle work beyond your regular responsibilities. Then, as you become more aware of what is and isn’t right for you, you can say “no” to those invitations that don’t move your goals forward.
The hidden lesson to all this? As you effectively learn to say “no”, your “yes” becomes far more powerful.