The Power Of “No” (And 4 Good Reasons To Say It More)

There is so much good that can come from saying ‘no’ more often.

Your typical response to a ‘yay or nay’ question says a lot about the way you handle leadership, and or importantly, your life. Your ability to both manage an orderly schedule and maintain it to near perfection can go a long way in building your image in the world of business. It also makes life move much more smoothly at home in those off hours with the family.

You are living with outdated business wisdom if you believe that you have to jump on every opportunity to excel (problem with no real solution) or extended period of flux (someone’s short sidedness leading to a severe shortage of staffing). Twenty years ago, pulling super heroics at work made you look like a superhero, and attracted accolades, bonuses, and promotions. Today, where the workplace treats just about every employee as expendable to some degree, it makes you look like a chump that couldn’t figure out how to get out of the extra work.

Trust me. I’m often the guy that looks like a chump that couldn’t figure out how to get out of the extra work because I often get stuck having to pull super heroics just to get basic things done.

Or do I?

With nearly 25 years of working life experience, I have seen firsthand the way a person who tries to say yes to every request is just setting themselves up for repeated physical and emotion beat downs. It doesn’t have to be this way. The only fix for this is to learn what Nancy Reagan tried to teach the children of United States back in the 1980’s. To “Just say no.”

The power of saying no requires the discipline to say no, some mental and verbal gymnastic to maneuver around those who would insist you say yes for their benefit and the ability to believe that what you are doing (or maybe not doing) is serving you a greater purpose. There will be plenty of disappointed faces as they receive their knows, but you free yourself up for some surprisingly joyous faces that are not used to getting your yesses when you start to offer up a few. So consider the power of a no as it would effect:

– Your Family: I know I will not be the only person on their death bed who will mull over whether they would have liked to spend more time working, I do understand the importance of being there for your family, along with being there with your family. Saying no to that project that you know is destined to fail at work, or to a useless outing with the boys to be present for those you love shows you are more than just the person who pays the mortgage or for groceries.

– Your Work: Let’s not back away from that project that you know is destined to fail at work just yet. Since you know your limit to what you can do, cannot do and cannot do well, your role in a projected disaster can have instant effects to your career. You could be seen as a hero stepping up to a challenge to those who realize it will be a losing effort. You could also face a management team with selective memory which will see you as the scapegoat they need to draw the blame of failure away from them. If you have the power to dodge one of these bullets, consider what side of history you may reside on when the smoke clears and the cleanup does begin.

– Your Reputation: If your word is supposed to be your bond, and you set yourself up with so too many projects competing for your time and attention, you are bound to fail some of them. And that means soiling the good nature of your word. The time spent building your reputation can be rendered a waste in a matter of moments when you fail the wrong person or project. The time you need to rebuild trust could double or more, and may only reap half or less of the original level of trust. If you doubt you can deliver, don’t take on the risky business.

– Your Health: In the summer of 2013, I had two week-long stays in the hospital about two weeks apart, suffering from what was best described as near kidney failure. Watching my year-old daughter toddler around the hospital rooms was a serious wake-up call for me. Your body has limits and it reminds you of those limits well before you will get close to the breaking point, but you have to listen and respond appropriately. There is no master project at work you can spearhead if you are not healthy enough to go to work. And for me, I won’t be able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding if I can’t live long enough to see her get married.

No is a simple word that many have a simple fear of saying, or at least saying to the wrong people attached to the wrong project. Learn to face this fear, and you will find freedom in not accepting a few less responsibility that come with a constant stream of saying yes. This will do you mind and your body good.

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