When I was growing up I remember hearing adults say to other adults, “You need to learn to say no.” As a kid, this seemed like an odd thing for someone to say to someone else. Saying “no” comes easy for kids. My parents probably said things like, “If you say no one more time…” after I had said “no” to them more than once, or just once 🙂
Why, as adults, do we find it so hard to say no? As children the word comes out of our mouth as quickly as a baby can cry (for no clear reason). But as adults we can lose sleep over just the thought of having to say no.
I have been giving this a good amount of thought over the past two months. I have come to the conclusion that we find it difficult to say no because we are afraid of what people will think about us. They might be disappointed in us, be mad at us, question our talents or skills, or any number of things. The challenge for us is to not care what other people think, which may be harder to do than the act of saying “No.”
As this is a recent discovery for me it is not something I am going to admit to being good at or doing as often as I should (yet). Saying “no” is going to become an option, though. I’m also going to start saying, “I don’t know, but can get back to you,” and take some time to determine if my answer will be yes or no (this ties in well with Waiting).
“Yes” is easy to say. There is no conflict involved in saying Yes. People won’t argue with a Yes. But Yes isn’t always the right answer. A few weeks or months after saying “Yes” you may find yourself wishing you had said No instead. I know this has happened to me more than I would like to admit, so I am excited at my newfound knowledge about the power of saying No.
Saying No will take guts. In my case, I will upset clients, I will upset prospective clients, and, on occasion, I will upset family members. The powerful thing about saying No to one thing means that you can say Yes to something else. Something you are better at, will work better on, will enjoy doing more, etc.
Do this today, or the next time you have the opportunity. When someone asks you something that requires a yes or no answer, stop and think before saying “Yes” and regretting it later. If you don’t know the answer right now, say so and get back to them later. If they pressure you into an answer, or don’t allow you time to think about it while talking with them, say so, and confront them about it. Then say, “I don’t know right now.” Start doing this today and I guarantee you’ll notice a difference in your quality of life and work.