How did you respond the last time someone asked you to do something you didn’t want to—or didn’t have time to do?
Congratulations if you said, “No.”
If you were at work, and you engaged the requestor in a conversation that provided you with some measure of choice and leeway while supporting your relationship and organizational objectives, then here’s a Whopping High 10 for you! (More about that in my next blog)
If you said anything else, keep reading—we’ll unpack this whole “No.” thing, so you’ll have another choice next time.
Meanwhile, what stops us from saying “No.” when we’re feeling it? The #1 Reason is that We Think We Should Say Yes.
There’s that sense of obligation to a family member, friend or colleague. Maybe there’s a sense that saying, “Yes” will make you look good or increase your status in this particular professional or social tribe. Sometimes there’s a sense that there just isn’t a good enough reason to say no—and your lack of interest or availability simply doesn’t qualify.
Here’s the bad news: when you say “Yes” when you mean “No” you open yourself to a flood of problems, which can, at the very least, weaken other people’s trust in you—and at worst, ruin your reputation.
And here’s why: people believe your “yes” because they want or need something from you, so they take you at your word. When they come back to get what they asked for, you’re stuck having to explain why you didn’t do what you said you would—unless, of course, you plan to disappear without a trace.
So what can you do differently? Use “No.” as a complete sentence.
The next time you’re asked to do something that you know you can’t—or you won’t—simply smile and say, “No.”
Warning: This will confuse the people who are used to you saying yes, so have some patience with them when they doubt your response and ask you again. Keep smiling and say, “No.” one more time. If they ask again, simply look at them and smile. When you refrain from saying another word, it’s clear that you mean what you say.
If, on the other hand, you say “No” and explain why you’re saying it, expect the other person to pick apart your reasons as if they were objections in a sales call. By the time you finish the conversation, you have a 99.99% chance of changing your mind and agreeing to do what they want.
(Now add to that the guilt of knowing you won’t do it.)
To save yourself the time and the grief of saying, “Yes” when you don’t mean it, or explaining your “No.”, go ahead and take my shortcut.
Use “No.” as a complete sentence right up front.
And just in case you need a 100% reliable strategy for wholeheartedly saying “No.” when you need to—here’s the one passed on to me decades ago by a dear friend: Any request that’s not a “HELL YES!” is a “HELL NO!”