The Art of Saying No
When you feel overwhelmed and stressed out, it's time for a serious self-analysis. Now be honest with yourself. Who told you to work late hours every day? Really? Why do you need to prove yourself? To whom? And for what? When we sincerely answer all those questions, we start to understand that we have issues saying no because we fear that it will upset someone, people will think we are rude, or that we will miss out on opportunities. But when we have inner peace, we think less, work less, travel less, talk less, eat less, and do less. Once you understand your inner thoughts that keep you saying yes to everything, you are on a long journey towards a balanced and healthy life.
First, you need to understand that people will always come asking you to do things, go places, and meet for coffee. In order to keep your schedule under control, you need to know how to put first things first. Career? Family? Hobbies? Think of what is really, really important to you. When it gets tough, you have to say yes to your priorities and no to other things. Because, when you don't choose to say no, you end up having to say no when you quite simply cannot take on another thing. This does not just mean saying no to the things you really didn't want to do, but also saying no to things you really did want to.
A famous productivity writer Claire Diaz-Ortiz, who previously worked at Twitter, suggests that saying no should be "truthful, firm and not overly apologetic" (The Better Life, 2015). She offers 99 ways of saying NO, here are my top 10:
1. No, thank you.
2. I have something else, sorry.
3. Thank you, but no.
4. Would love to, but it's my time off today.
5. I say no on Wednesdays.
6. I'm not able to make it this week/month/year.
7. Bandwidth is low, so I won't be able to make it work.
8. I'm learning to limit my commitments.
9. Not now.
Saying no, as everyone knows, is hard. Most of us need to work to get better at it. The art of saying no with disappointing others is one of the most crucial competencies every manager needs to have. In fact, the most successful people say no to many things. This way you will get more of your work done, have time to relax, and start to be more valued. You will start to value yourself more and you will make room in your life to say yes to the things you want to say yes to. Because when you finally manage to say no to others, you actually say yes to yourself.
Diaz-Ortiz, C. (2015). The Better Life. Chicago, Moody Publishers.
Saša Fajmut, M.Sc., Director Leadership Services at Amrop, responsible for leadership assessments and development. She holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology and an Executive MBA.