No is the first word we all begin to understand, and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.
How often do you say, “yes” and you wish you’d said, “no”? How many time have you said, “no” and wish you’d said, “yes”? Do you make a commitment to yourself when you do say “no”? If you’re asked to stay after hours at the office and you say, “No, I can’t,” but you’re still there at 7 p.m., what signal does this send? If you say, “yes” to staying late and yet leave at 5:40 p.m., again, what signal?
No seems hard to say for some people. Your best friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, whoever, asks you to volunteer for a committee and it’s the last project you want to do, but…you say “yes,” instead of “no” because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. How often do you say “no” with a clear conscious and move on?
I have a dear friend who’s good at saying “no.” It’s not a negative comment, it’s just his personality, and I respect him for it. When you decide that it’s all right to say “no” to your friend, neighbor, co-worker, community organization or other, you can make room for other activities and time either for work or pleasure. “No” doesn’t mean you don’t like someone or don’t want to do something, it just means you can’t make time for it right then, because you have other commitments or obligations. Now those commitments or obligations may mean you want to go home and read a good book, take a nap, or just bow out, and that’s okay.
“Linda” called me and wanted me to drive her around her neighborhood so she could look for her dog; I said “no.” I didn’t want to spend an hour plus coasting a few miles here and a few long blocks there when I could be doing something else. Is that self-centered? Yes. Is it selfish – to a certain degree? We all need to be selfish with our time. She found someone else to help her, and I was happy that she did.
About a year ago I volunteered for a community project. I was excited about the possibilities, the new contacts and getting back involved. I didn’t really consider the time commitment: meetings, upon meetings, upon meetings. It was drudgery for me to go to the three – minimum – meetings a month, including one Saturday morning. I finally pulled in my commitment and said, “I have to bow out.” It wasn’t exactly the “right” action to take, but it saved me from burn out and from not liking the organization. Is the organization thriving without me – absolutely.
No is powerful and power. Use it wisely and for personal and professional reasons. When you do say “no,” make certain that you feel good about yourself afterwards; don’t beat up on yourself. When someone says “no” to you, don’t you find someone else to help or figure out something on your own? Yes! It’s the same for others.
I am not saying you have carte blanche to just say “no” to everyone and everybody and feel good about it. I’m recommending that you say it with the power its consequences abide. Time is precious and you have to understand your needs and wants. If “no” is the right decision, live up to it. If “yes” is the right decision, live up to that as well. It’s your value system that pays the price either way.
Here’s to having the courage to say “no” when you really, really need to, and to saying “yes” because you really, really want to.