I often work with clients who are too accommodating to others, resulting in personal frustration and lack of progress. Not surprisingly, saying “yes” all the time makes you feel stressed and allows others to value your time even less. If you say “yes” often enough, people will come to expect it which becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to be said for the power of yes. It invokes a feeling of energy, trust, and creativity. It feels good to say yes. For the most part, we all want to be helpful and accommodating but it can also lead to a lot of stress and lack of productivity. To avoid this you must be comfortable in saying “no”.
When I use the word “no” in this context, I’m not talking about negativity. That is a completely different topic. Negativity is a chronic attitude. It is, as Dr. Judith Sills explained in an article, “a pair of emotional glasses through which some people get a cloudy view of the world.” By contrast, “no” is just a decision.
If you’re reluctant, here are some practical ways you can say “no.”
Once you realise that saying “yes” isn’t the wisest course of action, politely decline right away. Don’t say “I need to check my diary,” or promise to get back to them. This will be interpreted as a “soft yes” and they will begin to make plans. If you know you can’t or suspect it, inform them that you have a conflict. Your conflict doesn’t necessarily need to be in your diary. It may be a competing priority or commitment.
Don’t feel like you need to make excuses. Be honest and explain you have other commitments and can’t do it. Be aware that people and businesses use guilt and manipulation to get people to do things. Understand this and take the initiative by letting them know that you appreciate their confidence in you but that you are stretched too thin and are not in a position to support them.
Offer an alternative
Sometimes we really want to help but the timing is not right. Let them know that you are willing and suggest an alternative time or date. If it isn’t going to be timely, suggest someone else who might be able to help them.
Stand your ground
If someone doesn’t accept your “no,” politely stand your ground and be assertive. If they still won’t accept your answer, then that person probably doesn’t respect you or your time and needs. Sometimes you have to be selfish. Perhaps we can gain some insight from Warren Buffet who said, “the difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”