Most people know this intellectually, but not all of us are as clear as we might be about when we say "no" and how we say it. Today's post offers three tools to back you up in getting your "yes" to be more meaningful to others, and more aligned with your own true intentions.
Saying "No" doesn't mean I don't like you
Dr Angeles Arrien invites us to drop some emotional baggage from our language. In her remarkable book The Fourfold Way, she points out how often people often project all sorts of personal stuff onto words that are meant to give information and set clear boundaries without blame:
- "yes" is often taken to mean "I like you and agree with you"
- "no" is often taken to mean "I'm rejecting you or disagreeing with you"
- "yes" acknowledges a viewpoint or perspective and doesn't necessarily mean agreement
- "no" simply honours a limit and a boundary and indicates the ability to respect what one is willing to do or not do at this point in time.
Easier said than done.
Daily disciplines to cut the clutter
I was impressed to read Tony Schwartz on the Harvard Business Review network reminding us of some very practical tips for decluttering our lives:
- Schedule and honour the time in your diary for the things that are important but not urgent.
- Make time every day to set your priorities.
- Do the most important thing in your day, first: when your brain and body are at their freshest. Leave the emails and admin till later!
- Take at least one scheduled break each morning and afternoon, as well as getting away from your desk for lunch. Use this time to lift your head up and see beyond the immediate demands, reconnect with the big picture.
When all else fails, say "Yes" slowly
We live in a world where the expectations and projections of ourselves and others create very real pressures, including those of bosses, spouses, sponsors and others for us to say "yes" when we should be saying "no." So I was thrilled last week when Professor Margaret Orr, Director of the Wits University Centre for Learning and Teaching Development, told me about "saying yes slowly."
It's a kind of strategic retreat when the demands for a "yes" feel overwhelming. You start with something open-ended like "I'd like to help, but I have a lot of other commitments," and don't actually say "yes" until you have asked three questions, designed at least to slow down the flood of demands, such as:
- Have you considered who else can do this for you?
- Why is it so urgent?
- Is there another way you can achieve the result you want?
I invite you to say "no" at least as often as you say "yes". Do it mindfully, compassionately and above all, without the energetic baggage Angeles Arrien warned us about - but don't miss your daily ration of saying "no." That way your "yes" will have real meaning and you will be more accountable to yourself and others.