In life, work, business and relationships, we will be confronted with very diverse opportunities, choices and decisions. There will be many juicy and mouth watering offers, and we will be tempted to grab them all.
People will ask favours and make demands.
We will want to explore and will sometimes be plagued by the terrible malady known as FOMO (fear of missing out).
Maybe, we are afraid of missing an opportunity.
We might sometimes just want to be the nice guy.
But, whatever the reasons are, we need to understand that opportunities are not mandates.
We can not lay claim to all of them, and the truth is that you shouldn’t.
To maintain our sanity and keep our mental, physical and emotional health, we need to learn and master what I call ‘the very necessary art of saying no’. You will find that saying this little two-letter word can actually be wildly liberating. It creates space for the right opportunities to appear and when they do, it sets you free to accept them. Saying “no” gives you both the energy and peace you require to make the most of the opportunity you commit to.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love, in an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show shared one of her strategies for maintaing focus in her life. She said that surrounding herself with what she called a “wall of no’s” is what helps her to ensure that she could deliver on whatever she decides to say yes to.
You must have seen people who often say, “Yes” when in fact, they want to and should say, “No” solely for the fear of disappointing others. But then, when you say yes to something just because you want to please someone else, you are betraying yourself, and the result most often is that you will lose a small part of you. Some people become bitter and resentful as a result. And if you keep doing this, you will get to the point where there’s very little or nothing left of you when what you really need to say “yes” to appears on the horizon.
When you’re faced with a decision, before you say, “yes” or “No”, ask yourself and answer these questions.
- Can I do this?
Check yourself. Time. Ability. Availability. Result. And, maybe, I can, but, will you? Remember there is a difference between “Can’t” and “Won’t”. And, you are entitled to both.
- Do I really want to do this?
Think it through. Listen to your inner voice if you can trust it.
- Does this align with my values and goals?
Make sure you remember you big picture, your purpose, and ensure that if you say “yes”, it won’t be counter productive for own goals.
- Do I have the time for this?
Time is what everyone has in equal proportion. Make sure you’re using yours judiciously.
- Will it be of benefit to me?
Yes, sometimes, you should think about yourself too. You don’t want to waste your time in something that will not serve any purpose
- Will I do a good job of this if I take it on?
A job well done will bring you more opportunities, and one that’s done in a mediocre way will not only tarnish your professional image, it will also leave you second guessing yourself.
- What do I hope to achieve by doing this?
As you answer these questions with an authentic and honest “yes” or ” no”, you will be better positioned to give a response that will work both for you and the other party and at the same guarantee you aren’t pitching yourself up for failure and physical, psychological and emotional burnout.
And, when you decide to say “No”, be sensitive, be firm, and be polite. Be aware that your tone of voice and underlying intent should be congruent with your words to ensure the impact you want.
There are diverse ways you can let someone off gently, without ruffling feathers (at least, not too much), and these keywords and short phrases can help you articulate your “no” in a way that is authentic.
- No, thank you.
- No, thanks, but No.
- Thank you for the gracious invitation. I regret that I must decline.
- I am flattered, but I’ll have to say, no.
- That sounds like a lot of fun, which makes it even harder for me to decline.
- It sounds like a great idea, but I’m afraid, I have to say no.
- I’m not able to do that right now.
- Let me think about it and get back to you.
- I can’t commit to this right now, but let me help you find someone who can.
- I can’t right now, but I can do it [insert a specific time here].
- Unfortunately, I have other commitments right now. If you’d like, I can get back with you at [insert a specific time here].
- I have another commitment at that time.
- I’m sorry, I already have plans. Thank you.
- I’m afraid this is not something I want to do right now. Maybe in the future.
- I have an important family/personal commitment.
- I’d love to help, but I’m on a strict deadline for the next few days.
- I’d rather decline than do a mediocre job.
- I’d like to help out; but I have other projects I am committed to finishing before I take on anything else.
- I’m sorry; I really can’t give that project the attention it deserves.
- Thank you. This really isn’t my strong suit. Let me connect you with someone who can do it.
- Some things have come up that need my attention.
- No, I won’t be able to make it, but please let me know how it goes.
- I’m sorry, as a general rule I don’t participate in [insert activity here]. If there’s another way I can help, let me know.
- I can’t right now, but I know you will do a wonderful job yourself.
- No, I can’t because… Let me know if there’s any way I can help another time.
In as much as you want to be polite and sometimes proffer reasons and justifications for turning down an offer, a request or an opportunity, you should remember that the honest answer is YES or NO, all the rest can be useful or useless embellishments as to describe the motives behind the answer if there are any.
Sometimes you don’t need so much syrup or fog around your answer, you should just serve it straight, without any side dishes, be it a “yes” or a “no”.
What about you? How do feel when you feel divided between saying “Yes” or “No”?