Learning to say no in both our personal and professional lives can be one of the greatest talents we ever master. I’m ok with saying no to people. In fact, I say no often. I don’t do it for sport or to be mean but I do it when it’s necessary. I say no often enough that several friends have asked me to teach them how to do it. Believe it or not, I’ve even said no to that request before. The reason? Because I didn’t believe the person really wanted to learn to say no and my time was valuable enough to me that I didn’t want to waste it.
For those who do want to learn how to say no, here are some tips.
1. Saying “No” is respectful
Have you ever had someone tell you they would do something and then they never followed through? They got too busy, lost interest, or simply just didn’t care enough to meet their commitment. Wouldn’t you rather have known that they weren’t able, interested, or committed right from the beginning? Of course you would. We all would. Knowing ahead of time that someone can’t/wont meet their obligation or commitment saves everyone else a world full of headache. The same is true when you’re the one saying yes or no. We get respect when we give respect and by saying no to something we know we’re not going to give our all to we give respect to the other person. The receiver of the no may not like hearing no but in the long run, they’ll appreciate that you didn’t overcommit to something your heart wasn’t/couldn’t be fully committed to.
2. “No” does not mean “Never” but it might.
No doesn’t have to mean “never”. “No” might just mean “not right now”. If you can’t commit to something right now but you sincerely have interest in participating let the person know that this “no” is a “not right now” not a “forever no.” Here’s a great example: A few months ago I was asked to be on the Board of Directors for a nonprofit I volunteer for. I said no. The person asking was shocked, especially because one of my dearest friends is the Executive Director. I clarified that saying no didn’t mean I would never do it but that I didn’t have the ability to give to it completely right now. The person understood and I’ve left the door open for further discussion in the future.
No just might mean never and if it does, make sure your no is a firm one. You don’t want to give someone the false impression that you’re interested or you have the time to commit to something in the future if you never will. Here’s another example: I’ve been asked if I would ever consider running for an elected position in my community. The answer is a firm “NO”. What I know for sure is that politics is not for me. I’m passionate about issues that are often political in nature but I have zero interest in being part of the political machine. In saying no I left no room for doubt and gave the person asking the freedom to set their sites on someone else.
3. “No” allows you to build a reputation people respect
Being a woman of my word is one of my top priorities. If I commit to something, I keep my word. If I’ve committed to something that I should have said no to this has one of two results. I either end up killing myself in meeting my commitment and ultimately short changing something or someone else (most of the time that someone is me) or I wind up doing a half-assed job that harms my reputation as a woman of excellence. Either way, the outcome is never as good as I intended because I wasn’t honest with myself or the person making the request. By saying no when you need to, you build respect from your peers. You show them that they matter enough for you to be honest with them. You also show that you’re worthy of respect when you recognize that you have to take care of yourself first. By loving yourself enough to make yourself a priority you tell other people you’re worthy of being made their priority.
4. Saying “No” means your saying “Yes” to something else
If you say no to a request you have the opportunity to say yes to something else. It’s that simple. When you say no to planning the office holiday party because you have a deadline you must meet for your client, you say yes to having a satisfied client and the accolades (and hopefully raise) that comes with. No one was ever given a raise for saying yes to planning the office holiday party while making a client wait.
5. Saying “No” takes practice.
It’s not easy to do and some people will not take to it kindly. I have a few horror stories of my own I could share but what’s important is that I was true to the people I was working with and to myself. Nothing feels better than that. The more times you say no the easier it becomes. In fact, the first time you say no to something you really didn’t want to say yes to, you’ll feel GREAT! So give saying no a chance and practice it. Saying no respectfully is both an art and a skill. It wont happen overnight.
I’d love to hear how you learned to say “no” and what impact it had on you. If you’re just learning to say no and have questions or need advice, let me know that too. We’re here to help.
- Doing too much? Learn how to say no! (pecshetland.wordpress.com)
- Are You Too Nice? 7 Ways to Gain Appreciation & Respect (psychologytoday.com)