Learning how to say No

I like people and I tend to try and make them happy.  This trait is a benefit, but just like any other strength, when it is overused it can become a liability.  I can reflect back to many times in my life when a Yes should have been a No.  Why is it so difficult to say no?  Let me share a few reasons with you today so you can also learn when a Yes should be a No.

Life is full of opportunities and when you have a wide variety of interests almost every opportunity looks like something fun and engaging.  Many of the efforts I involve myself in are volunteer opportunities where I have the chance to help others.  In some of these cases my yes should have been a no.

At first glance you might say that I am choosing to not give back when I say no.  I can see why you might say that, but here’s another view to consider.  When one person says yes, it removes the opportunity from someone else to potentially have the same opportunity.  I have been involved with countless initiatives where a group of us would sit around the table and brainstorm about who we might attract to pursue a given effort.  In many cases the same names will always come up.  By always going to the same well, we have removed the opportunity for countless others to step up and learn something new with their Yes.

On a personal note, when I say yes it waters down the many other Yes answers I have given.  Life is always going to provide more opportunities, but when a person spreads themselves too thin, they become less effective at many things and more effective in almost none of them.

Here are a few guidelines I try to use, especially now, when I have to choose between Yes and No:

  • Do I really have the time to do this task or set of tasks?
  • How does the effort fit into my overall personal strategy?
  • How does the effort fit into my business strategy?
  • Is there someone else who could do this better than I could?
  • How long will the effort take?
  • Will I learn anything new from this effort?

Saying No is hard for me, but in order to be good at a few things, I need to say no more often.

How hard is No for you?  If you have difficulty saying no, think hard the next time someone asks for your help.  I am not encouraging you to pass up worthwhile opportunities, but I am encouraging you, and myself also, to be more selective in your Yes and No opportunities.

I had a good conversation with one of my advisers yesterday about this subject and he helped me solidify how I might move ahead with how I make these types of decisions.

The hardest part of any strategy is learning when to say No versus saying Yes.

We will see how this works for me.