To grow as people we have to exercise our muscles of, not only saying “yes” to the right things, but also to saying “no” to the wrong things. We shouldn’t view saying no as a zero-sum game.
In Psychology Today, Judith Sills, PH.D., psychologist and author, writes
There’s a lot of talk, and a lot to be said, for the power of Yes. Yes supports risk-taking, courage, and an open-hearted approach to life whose grace cannot be minimized. But No—a metal grate that slams shut the window between one’s self and the influence of others—is rarely celebrated. It’s a hidden power because it is both easily misunderstood and difficult to engage.
Often times saying no may provide the someone else with the opportunity to say yes (as the right fit) and will also provide you with the opportunity to say yes to the right thing down the line.
Empowered to Say No
In a recent team meeting, we empowered each other to say “no”:
- It’s OK to say no to people
- Consider the opportunity cost of every “yes”
- Saying “no” to yourself
- Saying “no” without giving a reason
The last point struck a chord with me. Often I will say no to people but I feel obligated to provide an all-inclusive reason why. But part of empowering yourself to say no means just being able to say it without further explanation.
That may be an outing with a friend, a business opportunity, a relationship, or an investment. You have the right to say no without a reason why.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What’s my gut telling me?
- Do I want to do this?
- Will this be a drain on me?*
- Will this further my personal/business goals?
* This question hits on another topic for a different post: How can we reconcile the tension between playing to our strengths/using our gifts and stretching ourselves outside of our comfort zone?
Shield vs. Sword
Kenny Nguyen, a founder of Big Fish Presentation, calls the power of no a shield, whereas yes is your sword. You have to practice each and also look past the immediate to know when saying no may pay dividends later.
We highly recommend his TED Talk “The Art of Saying No”:
Rehearse Saying No
One final note, practice saying no. Judith Sills, PH.D. calls this “rehearsal.” We all typically know the friends, family members, or co-workers who we should say no to.
Sit down and come up with a concise and firm no answer, as well as an answer for things that might be unexpected. That may even be something as simple, “Give me time to think about this” — where you provide yourself an opportunity to formulate your no.
Saying no puts you in the driver’s seat. Don’t let others control your road trip.