how to say “no”

As a leader and coach of leaders worldwide, I hear many ask how to juggle the additional responsibilities and challenges that come with a new role. The one question leaders rarely ask is, “What are the things I should NOT be doing in the new role?”

We tend to think that if we get smarter and more organized, we can add more and more and more to our plates, rather than recognizing the truth of our limitations. A better use of that greater wisdom and better organization is applying those skills to saying “no”.

Every time you say “yes” to one thing,
you say “no” to everything else.

Shauna Niequist writes…”You can’t have yes without no. Another way to say it: if you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.“

I am no expert at saying “no”, so here are a few tips that can help us:

CHECK your heart – Why are you saying “yes”? This is similar to the heart issues behind hurry sickness. Are you a people-pleaser who is afraid of losing a friendship? Do you base your sense of value on other people’s need for you? Do you consider your own needs unworthy of attention?

CONNECT with healthy community – Draw close to people who honor your “no”, who encourage you to tell the truth, who value your growth (and wellness) more than they value their own needs getting met.

CHOOSE the “5 things” rule – Joel Spolsky, from Trello, helps his team members limit their focus by asking them to consider five things at a time:

  • Two tasks they are presently working on
  • Two tasks they plan to work on next, when they finish the first two
  • One task they WON’T DO (even if people expect them to work on it!)

CALL a friend – Or call a coach or mentor and ask them for help in paring down your “yes” list. I used to plead, “I know I need to cut something out. Just tell me what to cut!” I desperately needed “pruning” assistance from someone who believed in me and had my best interests at heart.

COUNT the cost – Take time to reflect on what you will miss or lose by saying “yes” to each option. Will it cost you rest? Time with family or friends? Space to think and reflect?

Saying “no” to some choices is good stewardship of your energy, your time, your mental focus, even your health and key relationships. There is no shame in saying “no”. We really can not do it all. So choose the BEST things wisely.

Consider these questions:

What have you said “no” to because of your “yeses”?

Where could you say “no” to a “yes”?