Purpose of a Positive “No!”

“NO!” The most powerful word in language, that easily causes offense to others. You commit to everything: being the troop leader, dog sitting for you neighbor, room mom for BOTH of your kids classrooms, more work projects for the boss. Taking on more than you can handle quickly leads to burnout because there is no time to do everything. It leads to depression and exhaustion because you’re overwhelmed and then feel resentful because you cannot do it all.

So, why do we say yes when we really mean “NO”!?!

There are lots of reasons people struggle with no. The people pleasing part of the self wants to be liked, creates a sense of obligation or not wanting hurt feelings. Sometimes saying yes is just easier, and occasionally you really believe “I CAN DO IT ALL!” And sometimes, it works. BUT, continually giving in and saying yes, actually leads to others viewing you as a pushover.

  1. Finding YES: What are your priorities and goals in life. Make a simple, definable list of what is important in your life RIGHT now. If spending more time with your family is a priority, then set the intention (i.e. no work on Sundays). The firmer your connection to your “yes,” the easier it will be to hold yourself accountable to that commitment.
  2. Finding TIME: When faced with taking on yet another task, give yourself the time to truly evaluate whether it fits into your “YES” list. Challenge yourself to investigate what is being asked, and tell the person you will get back to them with a response. But, do not wait too long to respond or it could compromise the relationship (and cause you to look “flaky” or unreliable).
  3. Finding GRACE: Deliver your no in a clear manner that shows that you have been thoughtful about your decision. State it in simple language that does not provide a lot of excuses. The more drawn out the explanation, the less authentic you will appear.
  4. Finding BOUNDARIES: Be prepared to be talked into saying yes. Listen to the other person’s response and wait through all of the accommodations they will make (“just bring your kids” or “it really won’t take up too much of your time!”) Think about what is at stake (time, resources, respect). Stand up and assert yourself so that your decision is heard and respected (if you don’t respect yourself, you will not be respected by others).
  5. Finding PATIENCE: Saying no takes a lot of practice and is a challenge you have to prepare for. Find the language that works for you (i.e. “I do not commit to things I know I can’t give 100% to,” “I’m not available to do it, but let me find someone who can,” or “Thank you for thinking of me, I’ll have to get back to you to see if it fits into my schedule”). When you are able to say YES, others will see you as reliable because you actually mean it. Ultimately, you’ll do a better job because you have the time and mental space to commit.

Keeping balance between the “pleaser” and the “doer” is not an easy task. Staying focused on what is important to you helps to build integrity to the people and things in life that matter the most. Continue to be reflective of what you say YES to, or how you say NO, and use each of those experiences as an opportunity to refine your own personal and professional goals.

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