Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Value of Saying NO

Do you realize how important the word "NO" is in our vocabulary? Do you find yourself resisting the word out of fear of looking bad, hurting feelings, or closing the door on something? Do you find yourself saying "YES" more often -- sometimes to people and activities that may or may not fit your larger vision for what you want to be/do in your life or career?

I talk a lot about the importance of creating boundaries in our lives -- with people, activities, commitments -- by saying "NO" so that we can allocate the time, energy, and space to focus on what we really want to be saying "YES" to. This is not coming out of should; rather it coming out of honoring and investing in our vision, values, and mission. My previous post on why it's crucial to create a business plan applies here as well -- not only for business, but for life planning.

Saying "NO" is a source of power and an access to effectiveness. When we choose to close the door on something, we are opening up space for that which is a better fit for what we are creating and committed to. It may be difficult to use that little word in the beginning, but with practice, it becomes easier...and obvious when it's necessary and appropriate.

I had the pleasure of giving a talk on this important topic a few weeks ago at Ines Kinchen's weekly networking group at Flourish Studios in Chicago. I wrote a post last year on "Declaring 'Yes' and 'No'" and am happy to share the content of my talk here.

Consider the following questions:
  • What are the consequences of saying "YES"?
  • What is stopping you from saying "NO"?
  • How is this impacting your available time and energy? …your business? ...your relationships?
Here are some thoughts that are important when considering why/when to say "NO":
  • Make self-ishness a priority to powerfully manage where your time and energy go -- By filling your cup first, you will know how much you have available to give... without resentment, overwhelm, and overextending yourself.
  • Identify and align with your values -- Be certain that you are choosing from a place that is in alignment with what you believe in, stand for, and aspire to.
  • Get clear about what you want and don’t want -- When choosing NO or YES, be sure you are clear about what fits and doesn't fit with your vision, values, and mission for your life and business.
  • Carefully choose your commitments -- If you want to be effective and powerful in all relationships and activities, you must be discerning about what you say "YES" to. If you want to maintain your integrity and a high level of excellence, you may have to say "NO" sometimes so you have the capacity to fulfill upon everything you commit to.
  • Create boundaries in your relationships -- Identify who you want in your life, and what you are willing and able to give to your personal, professional, and romantic relationships.
  • Choose YES -- Don't trap yourself in "should" or "have to." The last thing you need is to feel resentful or obligated. If you feel compelled to say "YES," choose it and commit to it. If you are not going into the relationship or activity willingly and generously, then just say "NO." It won't serve you or anyone to be doing anything you begrudgingly said "YES" to.
Here is a short exercise to help you declare NO and YES to yourself:
  1. Select one area life where you are not satisfied.
  2. Write a complaint or challenge that you believe is underlying your feelings of dissatisfaction. Be specific.
  3. Identify what you want instead. Be specific.
  4. Write a NO statement as a declaration to eliminate what you don’t want in your life.
  5. Write a YES statement as a declaration to support what you really want in your life.
  6. Define a structure that will support you in honoring your NO and YES declarations. It's one thing to make a declaration, but another to design a structure to make sure you can put it into practice.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 for any area that you’d like to have a breakthrough in honoring your time, energy, or focus.
  1. Area of Life: Career
  2. Complaint/Challenge: My schedule is always packed and I’m constantly running around. I have little reserve time and energy for focusing on the ideas that will make my business really soar.
  3. What I really want is: time to focus on following up and connecting with all the people I meet.
  4. I declare I’m saying "NO" to: giving my time and energy away by over-committing.
  5. I declare I’m saying "YES" to: honoring my values and goals by practicing saying "NO."
  6. Structure: For a week, I will wait at least 30 minutes before committing to anything so that I have time to think about whether saying "YES" makes sense. (Say: “Let me check my schedule and get back to you in 30 minutes.”)
Be vigilant about saying "NO" -- recognizing that it is your key to power, effectiveness, and excellence. Find ways to practice (perhaps by starting small), so you can gradually increase your comfort with NO. By consciously choosing what, where, and with whom you involve yourself, you will have more time and energy to focus on what is most important to your life and career.

1 comment:

Judah S. Kurtz said...

I read this blog post recently on Zen Habits that talks about "7 Simple Ways to Say 'No.'" I feel it is a great companion piece to this entry and worth sharing: