The title of my first event in Hong Kong this past week was “Learning To Say NO With Dignity and Grace.” I am grateful for the support I received and to see how timely this topic is. I shared a few points and we also had a group coaching discussion around it. We came up with some very interesting conclusions. The question ”Why we have a difficult time saying NO” opened our discussion. Some of the answers and our conclusions were:
1. “Saying NO might end or limit the flow of opportunities coming into our lives.” – It’s actually the reverse! You will be maintaining the space for the right opportunities and relationships to come into your life.
2. “We want to be loved and accepted.” – Women in particular have a need to be liked and to please others. This is a cultural phenomenon; Women are raised to be good and men are raised to be right. That explains why it’s harder for women to say NO and for men to ask for directions! They suppose to know already!
3. “If we say NO who else is going to do it? The task will never be done if we ourselves don’t do it.” – That’s actually an inflation of our ego. Someone will get the job done and it will happen if it’s meant to happen. We are not the only ones that can make it happen.
Now, let’s imagine that we are now living our lives saying NO with grace and easiness. How would that look like? Maybe you will have more time, will feel more aligned with your own truth, will become more empowered and have more energy to help others when you actually want to do it. Guess what might happen? You will help others much more often! You will have energy and time to be of service without straining your life and your dreams.
In order to help the participants achieve that, I shared a few tools with them. I am doing the same here so you can benefit from them as well and start saying NO immediately.
The X-treme Tool: Go to the opposite extreme for a week and say NO to every offer or request. If you change your mind later, you can always go back and say yes, but the first response is NO – “No, and thanks for asking.” Even extremely successful people have difficulty with this tool, but it breaks the yes habit. You begin to see that the world will not come to an end if you say NO. Your friend’s won’t leave you and will still love you.
The Buying Time Tool: If the first one is too radical for you, try the Buying Time Tool and say: “Thanks for the invitation; may I think about it and let you know later/tomorrow?” Often, it is difficult to determine on the spot weather you want to do something and our initial response is usually to please the other person which produces a “yes” when we you really mean “NO”. If you give yourself sometime to think about it, you can call back the next day and accept, decline or counteroffer.
The Broken Record Tool: This is an idea from Manuel J. Smith’s book, When I Say No, I Feel Guilty. No matter how the other person responds you just keep repeating your statement in a neutral, low key tone. For example, “Oh, but we really need you and you did such a good job last year.” And you simply respond, “Thank You. I was glad to help last year, however I must decline this year.”
Saying NO is a muscle that needs developing. In order to develop anything it requires repetition. It will take time and commitment to develop the NO muscle. The dividends however, will be worthwhile. The other thing about saying NO is that you don’t have to tell a lie, justify yourself or volunteer information. Most people will respect that. If someone keeps pressing, you can simply say; “I am not interested in working on that project.” Or, “I am working on other projects this time.”
I encourage you to start using the tools right now. Experience the results of your actions and feel empowered by saying NO with dignity and grace! The results of your actions will inspire you to keep extending your boundaries and give yourself room to develop your gifts so that you can share them with the world! I believe we all have unique gifts and talents that we can use to make this world a better place. Go out there and let them shine!