Life and Spiritual Coaching

October 14, 2008

Saying “No” When it’s not that Simple

Filed under: Communications,Life Balance — by Donna Ritter @ 12:11 pm
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Saying “No” When it’s not that Simple

Sabrina Schleicher, Ph.D.


As a psychologist and life coach, I often find myself discussing the importance of saying “no” with busy, stressed out business owners and professionals. Everyone likes the idea of saying “no” more often, at least in theory. But, when it comes to actually doing it, I hear a lot of “yes, buts.” In other words, “yes, I could say no to that, but then who would do it?” or “yes, I could say no to that volunteer project, but then I might disappoint them.” Why is it so hard to say “no” to others?

Most of us experiencing success in our careers have learned one lesson really well–if you want to move ahead, you have to be willing to do the work. Translation, say “yes” to opportunities that come your way–you never know where it will lead. Well, look where that has led you. . . right to reading this article, looking for a solution to managing the stress from your busy life!  
The truth is, we are much better at saying “yes” than we are at saying “no.” Saying “yes” is easy, even if it means more stress and frustration down the road. When you say “yes,” the person asking something of you smiles, thanks you, and you are left feeling as though you have pleased someone. There is a lot of emotional payoff in that.


Saying “no” is not immediately gratifying to us. Although rationally we know that saying “no” will mean we will feel less stressed in the future, when we say “no,” we may feel guilty about disappointing the person who has made a request of us. Or, we may fear the consequences of saying “no.” What’s so good about that? Not much. That’s why simply telling yourself to say “no” more often is not a very effective means of managing your busy life and career. 
So, what’s the alternative? Contemplate saying “yes” with awareness of what the “no” is in every “yes.” For every task or project we agree to do, we are saying “no” to something else. For example, when you are starting a small business, there are a lot of start-up costs. You also are investing your time and energy into developing your product, building your customer base, and networking to promote your business. Your resources are limited and you have some difficult choices to make about where to invest your resources. Your time and energy are precious resources, as are your financial resources. Yet, we tend to believe we can stretch ourselves thinner and thinner by cramming more and more into our day. This simply does not work in the long-term because you deplete your energy.

Instead, think of your time and energy as being limited, just as you think of your financial resources as having a limit. This will help you to use all of your resources wisely. When you say “yes” to one opportunity or project, you are saying “no” to something else in your life. So, when you say “yes” to volunteering on a project, you will be committing your time and energy to that project. What are you saying “no” to? Where else would you be spending that time and energy? Perhaps you are saying “no” to some relaxing time with your family, or time spent developing your product. It becomes much simpler to say “no” to others when you are fully aware of the impact your choices have on your business and personal life.

Being fully aware of our choices allows us to make choices congruent with our goals, values, and life purpose. This brings us closer to a sense of balance.  


Try this over the coming week: Each time you are presented with a new opportunity, project, or task, ask yourself, “what am I saying ‘no’ to by saying ‘yes’ in this situation?” Write this question on a piece of paper and post it where you will see it often. You will soon be making wiser choices about how to allocate your precious time and energy.


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