Saying ‘no’ is an art. At least is what I’ve been told many times. Well, I’d say that saying ‘no’ is more a matter of courage. How many times you finally say yes when you really want to say no? Even under pressure we should say no more often.
If it is not a clear ‘yes’, then it should be a ‘no’
When you say no, you are really choosing something else. Something that you value, want or need more. Time is limited and so is our energy. Therefore, we need to choose. And to be clear, if you don’t do it, something or someone else will do for you.
How do we choose?
To be able to choose, we need to be clear about our priority. As Greg McKeown pointed out the word priority was singular at the very beginning, meaning “the very first or prior thing”. In the last decades, we made it plural taken the sense away.
Can we establish our priority? It may be difficult because we are so used to multitask. And the truth is multitasking is not helping our performance nor our objectives.
But going back on track, let’s suppose we are clear about our priority. If so, everything that makes us closer to what we want, should be a yes. Therefore, the opposite is also true: if it is not a clear yes, it should be a no.
In building our priority (and what we can call the source of our yes) we should have in mind not only our purpose (the ‘why’) but also the means (the ‘how’).
This is important if your answer for the following question is no: do the ends justify the means?
If you truly think that the ends don’t justify the means, then setting the right track to get things done is important. Therefore, you should keep in mind (according to your set of values) what things matter, what behaviours are good and what kind of people you should collaborate with and how.
All this stuff picture where are your ‘yes’ and where are your ‘no’. It is not only that a no should come to something getting us away from our purpose but also not totally matched with our track.
I started this post by stating that saying no is not an art but an act of courage. And here comes the reality. Let’s suppose we are clear about our priority and also clear about the right track. But we have a context in which we need to deliver results.
And in trying to understand what is behind, the context is key.
In this context we are never alone. We need to work with other people (or manage them), we sometimes feel pulled into others’ priorities, we feel the pressure of our boss or our peers to get done something that is not in our roadmap.
And then, what?
Saying ‘no’ requires a lot of courage and sometimes it seems impossible.
Then, being clear about to what I must decline, how can I find the courage to do it even under pressure? Tricky question.
The fear to be rejected or to suffer a consequence of saying ‘no’ is always there and will be times in which we have no choice. But these are the less.
Many other times, it’s about us: our biases, our set of values and our beliefs working against what we really want.
If we believe that by saying ‘no’ we reject the person and not the request, it will be more difficult. If we believe that ‘I can’t say no’ to our boss because of her position on the hierarchy, denying something becomes a challenge. There is a long list of things that we believe that are working against our will.
Therefore, in most of the cases we need to work on discovering what are our limiting beliefs or our hidden biases. Things that we consider true, but they aren’t. And find the way to overcome them.
The result really pays off. If we can put our values and beliefs to work for us, we should say ‘no’ more often to the things that are not worthy at all and make room for what we really want.