No is a Complete Sentence

For a long time, I’ve struggled with saying no to people. Hard to say if it is simply my natural inclination to want to help out, or my ego feeling puffed up because someone wants my help. It could be a little of both. Either way, saying yes to the wrong activities has very often gotten me in trouble.iStock_000016608876Small

The curious thing is that I’m not alone. I ran a quick web search on the phrase “hard time saying no” and in .85 seconds, I receive 450,000,000 results. Clearly, I’m not the only one with a problem.

For years I have pondered why I have difficulty saying no. After all, I have friends and colleagues who are masters of no, never giving it a second thought. Not me. Uttering the word used to eat at me. I felt guilty. I felt like a jerk.  It stressed me out to cancel something when I should never have agreed to it in the first place. Worse is when I’d honor the commitment but then be completely ticked off at myself for wasting my time.

Without learning to say “no”, here are just a few of the things that are likely to happen:

  • Your priorities become secondary and you may end up never getting to them.
  • Acquaintances burn time you can spend on your goals, your hobbies or with friends and family.
  • Burn out.
  • Lack of focus by allowing yourself to be pulled in competing directions.
  • There is no time left to say “yes” to the really important opportunities that come along.

I don’t remember exactly where I heard it, but it is said that, “No is a complete sentence.” As simple as that sounds, it still feels a little harsh to me. What I’ve done instead is thought about the various requests I’ve received through the years and have a plan for what I’ll say when the next ask comes along.

Here are three examples…

If you want a “pick your brain” meeting with me, be prepared to send me a written agenda and the clear purpose for the meeting. NOTE:  this stops about 99% of all requests. Should I agree to meet in person, it will cost you more than a cheap lunch. Dinner at an upscale restaurant and a really nice bottle of red will get you in the neighborhood of my typical consulting fee.

Want to meet to talk about how we might “partner”? A first meeting in person isn’t in the cards, but I may agree to a 15-minute exploratory call. You’ll need to give me a compelling reason why 15-minutes is worth it. You can start with the agenda.

If you want me to speak at your conference, you need to pay my fee. I’ve racked up plenty of “visibility” thank you very much. When I do say yes, don’t make ridiculous demands on my time. I don’t send my presentations weeks in advance.

Going forward…

At the start of the year, I blogged about going big, big, big, which will be tough to do unless I remain selfishly focused on what matters most to me. I want to encourage you to be selfish too.

Looking back on the first month of 2014, I’m pleased to say that I’ve done a great job turning down requests that don’t fit my purpose and plan. Go Barb! It isn’t all perfect though. I have some egg on my face for agreeing to at least one project that sounded great at first, but ultimately wasn’t a fit for me. It is embarrassing to back out.

Simon Sinek asks, “What’s your why?” I’m asking, “What’s your no?”

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