My son Jack, who was 18 months old at the time ,inspired this question. Just learning to speak, his favourite word was “NO!” That’s it, that’s all he said to absolutely everything. But that’s too negative I thought, he needs to say “Yes” (give me a break, I was still quite new to parenting).
Then I wondered, hey, maybe there is something we can learn here from this determined wee fella.
Do you find yourself saying “Yes” sometimes to things, when actually you want to say “No”?
Why do we do this?
Well, sometimes we don’t want to be impolite, or we don’t want to be perceived as being selfish. Sometimes we do it because it’s ‘people pleasing’; we all need to be liked. A bit of martyr syndrome perhaps thrown in there too? But when you say “Yes” all the time to everything, there are consequences.
Saying “Yes” too much leads to being overworked, overwhelmed and overstressed.
We need to be more selective to approaches and say “No” more often because our time is limited. Another thing that’s limited is the space in our heads.
Saying “No” is actually about productivity, focus and simplifying life. We have to filter. It is critical for our happiness. It’s often critical to our success at work too, and it is very important to our quality of life and our sanity.
But how exactly should we say “No”?
Saying “No” can be done positively. Saying “No” can be done graciously. It just takes a bit of practice. Sometimes an explanation is exactly what is needed. “I’d like to help out but here’s why I can’t.”
You don’t always have to give an explanation of why you are saying “No”. A striking quote I came across recently is: “No is a sentence.”
I like “No, thanks.” “No thanks, I can’t make that invitation”, “No thanks, I can’t get involved with that new project at work.” It’s polite, but it’s enough.
Concluding, is this article really about saying “No” more often? Yes, it is. Is this article about saying “No” nicely? Yep, it’s that too. But what it is really about is you knowing your limits and knowing your boundaries, and crucially knowing what you really want.
Going back to my repetitive toddler Jack… does he want his nappy changing and his face washed with a flannel? “NO!” He wants to watch Postman Pat, simple.
So “No” is not a negative, it’s a choice. And it’s much easier to say “No” with conviction when you are clear about what you want.
Be kind and caring to others, but be selective and look after yourself too.
And have a think about this last corking quote:
“Saying “No” is saying “Yes” to what’s important.”
Ooh, what a beauty!
This Blog article was originally produced for a radio broadcast ‘Thought For The Week’.