Say No

Bill Abbate

The most valuable thing every person possesses is that precious, limited resource known as time. When you understand the real value of time, which is life itself, you will want to use it more wisely.

If you agree with what you have just read, read on to learn about one of the most life-giving, valuable skills you can learn — saying no!

Why say no?

Why do so many of us say yes so quickly when someone asks us to do something? Is it because we want to be liked, included, or part of the team? Or do we feel pressured, too embarrassed to refuse, or something else? Perhaps it is because we don’t value our time or don’t understand its value.

When you control your time, you control your life.

Do you sometimes wind up in overwhelm? It is a common occurrence in today’s demanding world. Could it be that you have overcommitted? Have you said yes to too many things? Why do we do that to ourselves?

Imagine living a calmer, more peaceful life. All it may take is saying no more often!

Focus on what is important and meaningful in your life if you want to make a significant difference in its outcome. Considering how valuable time is — and the time wasted in an average person’s life — it is almost incomprehensible we give time away with so little thought. Yet that is reality, and that is life. We are human, after all, and what is important to one person can be unimportant to another.

Learning to say no effectively is one of the most valuable life skills you can develop.

If you want control over your life, you must control your time. Little can waste time more than saying yes to something that adds nothing to your life.

Don’t you want to know what consumes your life and whether it is worth doing? Why go through life blindly when you can live your life on purpose?

The advantages of saying no

There are significant advantages to saying no to what others ask of you. Saying NO makes more room in your life, so you can say YES to those things that add value.

A crucial mindset to create is to remember this is your life, and it is your choice to live it as you see fit. Unless you allow it, no one else can make your choices for you. You only get one shot at this life, so choose wisely.

How do you want to live your life? Do you want to control what you can or give the control away to others? Do you value your time and, therefore, your life? Are you making the right decisions by using your time to add to your life, or are you allowing others to take it, or worse yet, steal it?

An example of this is when someone guilts you into doing something you’d prefer not to do. Perhaps you’re experienced in accounting and taxes, and a friend asks if you can prepare their taxes for them.

While you might want to say yes for the sake of your friendship, if taking on this task takes time away from your wife and kids, it may be stealing time from you and your family. It is certainly stealing time from your life!

Just because someone asks for something doesn’t mean you have to say yes. Give each request thoughtful consideration, and then decide what benefits your long-term goals. If nurturing your marriage is more important, it takes precedence. Knowing your real priorities can help you make the best decision for when to say yes or no.

“A dishonest yes is a no to yourself.” Byron Katie (1942-present)

The above example applies not only to your personal life but to your work life as well.

As the father of modern management said:

“People are effective because they say ‘no,’ because they say, ‘this isn’t for me.” Peter Drucker (1909–2005)

Effectiveness, in this sense, is making the best use of your time and life.

Keep and use your time for what’s important rather than giving it away. By saying no, the time is for your use to do more of what you want and need, benefiting your life which is invaluable!

“It’s only by saying NO that you can concentrate on the things that really matter.” Scott Belsky (1980-present)

Put each request to the test

Here is a simple litmus test to determine where to spend your life best, whether personal or work-related. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Does this request add to my life experience or relationship(s)?”
  • “Will I be glad I spent my time and life on this request five or ten years from now?

You can just as effectively ask the same questions in the negative by simply rewording them slightly.

  • “Does this request take away from my life or relationship(s)?”
  • “Will I regret spending my time and life on this request five or ten years from now?

Ask the questions in the way that is most powerful to you. The purpose of asking yourself these questions is to stop you from reacting with a quick yes. This will give you time to think about the request so that you can respond in a manner that is in your best interest.

How to say no

“No is a complete sentence and so often we forget that.” Susan Gregg (1949-present)

The best way to say no to something you do not want to do because it will waste your time and life is to simply say “‘no.” Of course, it is important to use an appropriate tone of voice. Say nothing else. Do not try to justify your no. Do not add anything after saying no in an attempt to soften it.

“When we don’t want to do something we can simply smile and say no. We don’t have to explain ourselves, we can just say ‘No.’” Susan Gregg (1949-present)

Take a lesson from people who know how to negotiate. When one party requests something from the opposing party, they shut up. Why? Because the one who speaks first usually loses!

“Part of the skill of saying no is to shut up afterward and not babble on, offering material for an argument.” Judith Martin (1938-present)

A final word on saying no is to remain aware of someone else’s selfishness. Are they using you to gain more time for themselves? If they are your spouse or boss, that may be okay. But if they have no authority in your life, they are likely using you. Another word for using is controlling!

’No’ is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who chooses not to hear it is trying to control you… Declining to hear ‘no’ is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it.” Gavin de Becker (1954-present)

Final thoughts

Learning to say no may take some practice, but if you wish to control your time and life, practice you must. The practice will be more than worth it.

Imagine gaining more time to do those things that matter most. Taming your hurriedness and lowering your stress may be only one or two “noes” away.

Keep in mind what this great American writer said long ago:

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” Josh Billings (1818–1885)

Why not start practicing saying no today? You have little to lose and much to gain, so give it a try!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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