Raise your hand if you’ve ever said yes to something you knew you would regret. Now, keep it up if you’ve ever said yes to something when you actually meant no.
Hey! Put those hands back up!
We’ve all done it. We have all at, some point, accepted a task, project, or party invitation that we knew we didn’t want to do.
No to Yes Ratio
CEOs and time management superstars (working moms and dads, hear hear!), on average, say one yes to every ten no’s. What’s my source on this, you ask? Well, I read this somewhere years ago, of course, right when I was struggling with it most, in one of those highest rated CEO lists and it stuck with me. The bottom line is this. Leaders value their time. They understand their individual core values and know what is worth their time and what isn’t. It is a two-way street and doesn’t waste other people’s time either! It’s actually disingenuous when we say yes to something that’s actually a no. And “the oracles” agree!
Don’t leap at every opportunity that comes your way just because it is in front of you. Be selective and certain that the opportunities, tasks, social gatherings, etc. that you pursue are worth your time and benefit the journey of becoming your best self.
While this may sound exceedingly selfish, there is selflessness in selfishness. Taking on things that drain you of your passion and enthusiasm will hurt cause you to stress and burn out much faster. Burn out is bad for you and lowered production is bad for your company. It’s a lose-lose.
When to Say No
So, how do you know when to say no to an opportunity? Here are 3 reasons you need to say no even though you feel like saying yes.
1. You Feel like You “Should” Say Yes
WARNING: it’s a trap
You feel like you should accept (we all know how I feel about shoulding ourselves) the project, the party invitation, the industry conference halfway across the country is a reason to say no even though you think you should say yes.
Let’s say you take on a large, time-consuming project that your boss proposes to you because you feel like you should. You know this project will bore you to tears and is not even in the realm of your passions. But because of your position, your boss, whatever fictional excuse you find, you feel this is something you should do. By forcing yourself to take on this project, you’re going to stress and burn yourself out as this project that you have zero interest in sucks up your time and energy, leaving you little to no time to spend on the parts of your job that you love and help you grow.
2. They’re Expecting You to Say Yes
Who are “they” anyway? If someone is expecting you to say yes, and you are only saying yes because of that expectation, say no.
Your friend invites you to a reunion with your old college buddies. It’s on a Wednesday night, an hour from where you live, and you haven’t talked to any of them in years. The last time you went you didn’t have a good time and you were exhausted at work the next day. You don’t want to go. But your friend hits you with the, “Oh, come on! We’ve all been friends forever. You’re not going to miss this!” So, you allow yourself to be cajoled into saying yes.
Just like last time, you didn’t have a good time and you’re exhausted at work the next day. It wasn’t worth it. Now they’re going to expect you to go again. It’s a never-ending cycle that benefits no one.
3. It Goes Against Your Individual and Leadership Core Values
Let me give you a personal example of this. I worked for a company that I LOVED. Loved the mission and the vision, and I spent six years of my life helping to grow it and launch new products and services. It was thrilling and rewarding. After we sold that company to a parent company steeped in tradition and super conservative views, I opted out of going to a critical meeting at their headquarters. It was NOT a popular decision by my peers on our executive team. At the time, we found a gracious way to excuse my absence. I really did have a family commitment that would have eaten me up alive had I missed it. The real reason I didn’t go, which ended up being the absolute right thing for me, was more around a mismatch in how we view and treat others in the workplace. I left that company within the year and went on to a culture and value system that fit mine like a glove. Of course, I left on the highest of notes, one never burns a bridge, you simply move out to move up.
The Power of No
No is a very powerful word when backed by intent and certainty. By choosing when you say no, you communicate to people your priorities, interests, and boundaries. But it only works if you truly mean no. If you allow yourself to be constantly persuaded to change your mind, your “no” loses its gravitas. It becomes hollow to the people you say it to and to you.
Try saying it out loud now. It’s okay if those around you think you’re nuts. Live a little, try it! Say the following:
- No? (with a soft and unsure voice like a question)
- No. (with a more firm voice and period at the end)
- NO! (louder and meaning it with an exclamation)
Which feels best to you? Ideally, and situationally and relatively, you will only ever use version two and three. Let’s dump version one.
Value your time and other’s. Be honest with yourself about what matters to you and what is worth your time and theirs. Time is a limited resource. Spend it wisely.
Want more? Check out my video on this topic.