With very minimal effort you can find books, articles, blog posts, and probably interpretive dances on the art of saying ‘No’. A simple Google search turned up the following:
7 Simple Ways to Say ‘No’
10 Guilt-Free Strategies for Saying ‘No’
11 Steps (with Pictures) to Saying ‘No’ Without Feeling Guilty
3 Simple Strategies for Saying ‘No’ to People
8 Ways to Say ‘No’ Without Hurting Your Image
And my personal favorite…
10 Ways to Say ‘No’ Without Saying ‘No’
Because I have a developed a pretty direct communication style, people think it is easy for me to say No. The truth is…sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.
I can say no to my schedule being hijacked because someone didn’t plan well. It goes something like “I can come to your meeting but I am leaving at 5:30 because I have plans. If that doesn’t work please look at my calendar and reschedule.”
I can say no to someone I don’t want to go on a date with again. “No, I don’t want to go out Tuesday and I’m not interested in going out again.”
I can say no when they try to sell me stuff at Jiffy Lube that I don’t need. “Is my car going to fall apart if you don’t tune up the rear differential today? No? Then I’ll pass. New Windshield wipers? No…mine are fine. Oh I’m sure…I use them 6 days a week, 10 months a year.”
And then there are things that are just harder.
Like when a friendship does not bring me any joy or actually leaves me exhausted but the other person has come to rely on me for some element of validation or support.
Or when a social group has been a blessing to me during a hard or lonely time but over time begins to take over my schedule and steal time from other priorities.
And a biggie for me…I can’t say no to picking up the slack when a team member doesn’t do their part and it impacts the team in a way that will make everyone look unorganized or incompetent. (Bosses LOVE this one!)
I’ve long held the false view that saying ‘No’ is somehow an act of toughness. And that the inability to do it is a sign of weakness. And let’s face it…in some cases it flat out takes a bit of harsh honesty and a strong will to say no to someone.
And yet…what if saying ‘Yes’ is the answer?
No, not saying yes as a means for manipulation.
Honestly saying ‘Yes”…but to yourself and meaning it.
Do I like myself enough to say yes to honoring my own need for friends who I have a healthy give and take? Are my other relationships valuable enough to me that I am willing to leave relationships that do not serve both parties?
Do I love myself enough to say ‘Yes’ to giving the rest of a group the opportunity to serve? Do I care enough about others to give them room to determine whether a group stays active without my pushing it along?
Do I believe in my leadership skills enough to let the team fail and learn hard lessons?
The ultimate question every time a ‘No’ sticks in my throat must be “Do I love myself enough…?”
The answer is an obvious yes when it comes to my money, who’s in my bed, and in some cases my work boundaries. I also believe as I get intentional about my choices, my time, and my priorities, the answer more and more will be an obvious yes.
Yes I do love me enough.
Yes I do believe I am valuable without your approval.
Yes I am going to control my own time rather than giving it over to others because it is not good for either of party in the long term when I feel controlled or complicit with someone else’s bad behavior.
Yes is not the selfish answer. Yes protects me so that I’m able to give my very best to the world and to challenge you to bring your very best to the world. And in that way…our loved ones, our priorities, our teams, our communities, and we ourselves get the best ‘Yes’ we all have to offer.