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The Power of 'No'

I dread Mondays. My work feels overwhelming. I have too many balls in the air. At the end of the day, it looks as if the number of balls remain the same or increase. I never seem to be able to say 'No' to any work that comes my way. My family has given up on me. I seem to chase an oasis in the desert. ~ Senior Professional, Tech

In layman terms, saying 'no' is the opposite of saying 'yes'. However we have glorified saying 'Yes' so much that saying 'no' seems very villainous thing to do.

Most of us know that we can't say yes to all work that comes our way as we have 24 hours like everyone else.

There are a few factors that prevent us from saying no:

  • Fear of losing Like-ability

  • Fear of being perceived as incapable

  • Fear of hurting others

  • Need to prove irreplaceability

  • Hercules syndrome - need to carry the world on one's shoulders

What can help one get out of the maze of fear and responsibility?

As a coach, what I do notice, is that this is a "pet" goal for many.

Below are learnings which have got co-created in the coaching sessions with multiple clients across industries and seniority levels.

1. Saying No determines what you say Yes to and not vice versa:

When we say 'yes' to something, we own up to ensuring its complete. We need to make time for it. Saying no to other tasks ensures that we create the time to do it well. Unless we say no to some other tasks, we have really not said yes to the one we did. It was just lip service.

To say a real yes, and mean it, we need to do the real "No".

Most people ask me what criteria should they employ to prioritise what they say yes/no to?

The answer to it is:

a. in what way the task / ask adds up to your goals & KPIs?

b. the importance of the task for the success of your role

If you are feeling everything adds up, think again, probably the maze is in "attributing right importance."

You may choose to do some tasks for the sake of relationships. However that needs to be a choice instead of a mandate.

2. Integrity is being able to do what you say and not just saying yes to everything

In our quest to escape the displeasure of saying no, we say yes to things we can't honour. We know that upfront. Yet, we keep saying yes to everything.

What it ends up with, is a loss of integrity.

Knowing your "can" and "cannot" boundaries helps you to respect your own words.

In turn, it leads to other people respecting you.

3. Your needs behind the yes

Sometimes our own needs & desires stop us from saying the no.

When you hesitate to say a no, ask yourself what is the benefit you are getting when you say yes.

  • Is it that you want to be always reliable?

  • Is it that you want to please people?

  • Is it important for you to be Hercules?

  • What self image do you carry that makes you believe that you can't say no?

4. Deliberate practice

Sometimes its plain inertia or habit that prevents us from saying no.

Then the only way out is deliberate practice. Find an accountability partner and practice saying No with them.

This will help reduce the inertia over time.

What helps you to say No?

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