Ever say “yes,” and later think, “Oh no! What have I gotten myself into?”
Learning how to say no is an important skill for success, happiness, and peace of mind.
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You’ve probably heard the story about how I built a multimillion-dollar training center in Texas. What you don’t know about is the “yes” that almost killed the project and me before it ever got off the ground.
The opportunity to launch the new startup came along with the responsibility of running an existing Small Business Development Center. I said yes without fully understanding the “bandwidth” required to do both at the same time. I ended up with two full-time jobs. It was a loooooong and exhausting year.
Thankfully everything worked out. I was able to make the transition, hand off the small business initiative, and devote my full energy to launching the training center I really wanted to build.
Why is it so hard to say no?
Why do we to make commitments without considering the true cost of saying “yes?”
Could it be that we don’t want to let others down or look like we can’t handle it?
Does ambition or insecurity blind us?
Our society makes it look like everybody is doing everything and being wildly successful at all of it, but a look behind the curtain often reveals a different story. Overcommitment leads to burnout. Saying yes to the wrong things may seem like a good idea in the moment. It may make others happy short term. But don’t fool yourself: saying “Yes” when it should be a “No” doesn’t serve others well, and can delay or derail your vision.
[Tweet “Saying ‘No’ to certain things allows us to say ‘Yes’ to the right things.”]
Yes or No? How to Decide
It’s important to value your vision and honor others by taking the time to answer a few questions when deciding where to invest your time and resources.
(1) First, is this a good thing or a God thing?
The temptation is to settle for a good thing at the expense of the best thing.
Life is rarely a straight line from where you are to where you want to be. There are detours and land mines along the road that can hijack your priorities and focus. Investing time in prayer, and putting some emotional distance between you and the moment, can bring great clarity in decisions.
God can and does work everything together for our good, even when we make bad choices. But we can avoid mounds of frustration by involving Him in every decision and learning how to say no.
(2) Second, is this request in line with your vision and goals?
Choose to say yes to requests that allow you to invest time and energy strategically, moving things forward that align with your goals when they can also serve others.
If the project is not in line with your goals at this time, offer a gracious no and suggest an alternative to the individual. Perhaps the opportunity is better for someone you know.
How to Say No
- Avoid the tendency to over-explain. Make eye contact, confidently state your decision and offer a suggestion.
- Try to say no in person rather than email. Email makes it difficult to communicate your intent. (If you have to use email, be sure you’re not using ALL CAPS.)
- Resist the temptation to defend your answer; genuinely affirm the person and the request as a valuable and worthy goal. Express a genuine interest to hear an update from them in the future.
- If this is a request you would entertain at another time, let them know.
- Skip the guilt with confidence know that a timely and loving ‘no’ serves them and you.
Remember, saying “No”is not a negative when it’s the best answer for you and the other party.
When we operate in love with a simple no and a blessing of affirmation, we avoid offense, build better relationships and reach our goals faster and with less stress.
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