Learn to Say NO!

Learn to Say NO!

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This, for some people, is one of the hardest ideas to implement. The curse of the ‘nice’ person is the desire to please everyone. Sadly, like spoiling a child or a pet, being nice in every interaction is a short term approach that only leads to long term problems –  which, in the end, are far more damaging.

This idea requires confidence and a complete change of mindset. For those who really struggle with refusing people, conquering this can be the most liberating and rewarding experience of their lives. It truly is a life-transforming idea.

Unfortunately, we often want to please and accommodate everybody. As if saying ‘no’ is somehow rude! Yet, what IS rude is cancelling at the last minute, missing that order date, failing to deliver all those things that you know you should never have accepted in the first place – if you were honest.

“Are you available for a meeting?”
– “Yes!”
“Could you do this for me?”
– “Yes, of course!”
“Have you got some time to do that?”
– “Yes! I should think so.” (No you don’t!)
“Would you mind…?
– “No, of course not!” (Funny, that. You CAN say no when it actually means ‘yes’…).

The thought of saying “no” to a request can be unthinkable. We don’t want to be seen as negative, cause a possible confrontation, or have someone not like us. But just saying ‘No’ can offer you so many rewards – including the respect of other people. What’s worse? Explaining ‘No, sorry. I can’t do that. I just don’t have the time. May I suggest that you approach… instead?’ Or wasting somebody else’s valuable time by promising something you can’t deliver, or can only deliver poorly because you’re so stretched for time? I know which I prefer. A straight ‘no’ at the outset is the honest and honourable thing to do, for both the ‘no-man/woman’ and the recipient, too.

The fact is, we cannot be “all things to all people”. It is important to say no and turn things down if need be – it is simply impossible to do it all!

How many times does it feel like you are having a Groundhog Day? Yet again, your staff want “just five minutes of your time”. An appointment made in good faith a few weeks ago, now looks like being a total waste of time, but you feel that you have to keep it anyway! A customer keeps you talking and it seems rude to  say, “I have to go now”. Your partner has booked tickets to a film that you have no interest in seeing. The list goes on and on, and you become increasingly resentful of doing things that you don’t want to do and don’t have time to do!

It is a simple fact that you will never be productive if you take on too many commitments.

Quite simply – learn to say NO!

This is the greatest tool in controlling your own agenda. When you are using it with purpose, NO can be fun. NO can be enjoyable. 

Don’t be a “Yes” person. If you are, you will find your life is packed with dates you can’t make, obligations you don’t want to keep, work you don’t want – and all the time, you are using up that precious resource of time.

Have you seen the film “Yes Man”? Very funny. Opens up lots of possibilities for a man whose life was dull and uneventful. But if your life’s busy enough – be a ‘No Man’ or ‘No Woman’ for a while – even for a day, if you feel tentative about it. Longer, if you want to practise your resilience. Refuse things for a change, as bluntly or politely as you like. Give reasons if it helps you to feel better, but you don’t have to.

Practise saying, “No. Sorry. I can’t.”

Variations on the same theme:

“Sorry, I can’t come to your meeting. I’m washing my hair.”
– “But I haven’t told you the date or the time!”
“Doesn’t matter. Whenever it is, I’m washing my hair.”
“Really sorry, but I just don’t have time.”
If people persist – and keep persuading or asking… use the broken record technique. Whatever they say, repeat your answer, over and over in whatever variation you like, as long as it’s no. No. No. No. See who tires first and gives in. But make sure it’s not you!

Experiment with saying no to things and people. See how much simpler life can be if you don’t fill it with tasks and activities that you might otherwise have felt ‘obliged’ to do. If you have the higher purpose of delivering more for yourself, and therefore more for everyone around you, then learning to say NO, and ensuring that everyone uses your time efficiently, can revolutionise your time. 

You can “train” people to interact with you in the way you want them to. Similar techniques can be used as those in child psychology or child management books (there’s even room for a ‘naughty step’ if you like). Reward good behaviour, and ignore or address bad behaviour with clear boundaries and rules. There has even been a project in which dog trainers taught women some dog training tips they could translate and use on their husbands! The power of a firm ‘NO’ should not be underestimated, and when accompanied by a tasty treat for good behaviour – it’s even better!

If your staff need your support, tell them you will see them once a week, but before they see you, they must have prepared their objectives. Make them aware that they can only get what they want from you  in a certain way – it is human nature that they will adapt and evolve to it.  If your partner wants to go to a film – ensure that you are given a degree of choice in the selection of the film – so it is one that you can both enjoy!

Always look for win-wins. Your “win” is time efficiency and their “win” is getting what they want. There is always a way for people to achieve what they need without using your time inefficiently.

Control the game. Own the agenda and make sure every interaction adds value to your experience – whether in life or business – and is an efficient use of your time. You will deliver more for yourself and for everyone around you. It all starts with the seemingly simple concept of controlling your own agenda by learning to say no.

Be upfront. People will not be offended if you are clear about what you can do and when you can do it.

“I’m really under pressure here. I need it by tomorrow. Can you do that?”
– “No, I’m afraid not. We have another priority order to finish. It will take us at least four days, but we provide a thorough and high quality service that’s well worth the short wait.”
“Can you have that report with us by next week?”
– “No. I’m sorry but I am on leave. It will be with you the week after that.”

If you tell them that you don’t work on weekends or you don’t take phone calls during time with your family, or you are taking a day off to spend with your partner, they will respect you for that.

Controlling your agenda is an extension of having control over your life. Taking charge of what you do is key to your success. You have the right to spend your time as you planned it. If an urgent job or task is suddenly thrust upon you, you do not have to assume a fire-fighting role unless it is truly important and urgent. If a client’s deadline is urgent, they need not pass that sense of urgency onto you. If they try to, you can refuse that pressure. They can go elsewhere, or you can negotiate on your own terms.

Use your pricing system to change their behaviour. Charge them more for fast-tracking their urgent ‘rush jobs’ – but if they work in an efficient, timely way – they can have a cheaper price. Apply a consequence to inefficient actions and transactions. After all, if you were late with the provision of a service, you might be liable to a penalty clause. If they require an urgent action – you require your own upfront penalty payment. If there are no consequences to their demands, there are potentially no boundaries – which leads to problems. In most cases, their behaviour will change as a result of your consequences. If it doesn’t, then your revenue will increase to compensate for their inefficiency. Perhaps this will help them to manage their own time more effectively in future.

At a higher level of thinking – saying no is taking your power back, and being in charge of your own life and business. If you don’t set your own agenda, other people will be only too glad to set it for you. If you know that you are doing things with the best of intentions, and what you are doing is right, why worry if other people are upset? Have complete faith in your choice of how you live your life.

Remember, this is a long term game. There are no overnight wins with this, and sometimes you can go backwards before you go forwards. The important thing is to have faith in your decisions and your vision. Time is your most valuable asset, so don’t give it away in inefficient ways. Imagine what you can do with all the time you will gain.

Of course, it is worth the short term pain!

Further Reading:

When I Say No, I Feel Guilty: How to Cope, Using the Skills of Systematic Assertive Therapy by Manuel J. Smith (Amazon Link UK, US)

How to be Assertive in Any Situation by Sue Hadfield (Amazon Link UK, US)

The Nice Factor: The Art of Saying No by Jo Ellen Gryzb & Robin Chandler (Amazon Link UK, US)

Too Nice for Your Own Good: How to Stop Making 9 Self-Sabotaging Mistakes by Duke Robinson (Amazon Link UK, US)

Further Fun:

Yes Man – Book & Film (Amazon Link UK, US)

If the above topic, or indeed any of my blogs are of interest to you, then contact me and let’s talk! Drop me an email at getintouch@marcwinn.com.

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