Are there things you need to start saying no to a bit more often?

Learning to say noConsider this – When did you say yes, when on reflection you should have said no?

Have there been times when you agreed to something but shortly afterwards you were left pondering ‘why did I just say that?’ It could be that extra work you agreed to, that you knew would make you late home or put you under unnecessary pressure when your to-do list was already overflowing? Perhaps it was spending money on that purchase you might have wanted but didn’t really need, when the outlay would have been put to better use elsewhere? Maybe you agreed to a night on the proverbial tiles when what was really wanted or needed was a quiet night in? Just think of some of the benefits you could have reaped if you had provided the answer you really wanted to give without concern as to how it would be received.

Yes/no questions

A yes/no answer is a response to different types of questions. Firstly, in its simplest form, the other person is seeking information so here saying no when the answer is yes isn’t really going to help. At best it would be confusing and at worst you would quickly get a reputation for not telling the truth!

Secondly, it can be used to gauge your opinion. For example, do you like this television programme, what do you think of the food or do you think the government is doing a good job? Some of these questions might require a bit more thought than others or some depth behind your reasoning, but these are all questions that require your opinion.

The third area is the one where you are probably looking to increase your no count – the decision-making section. We may think we don’t but how many decisions have you taken today where you absolutely had a choice? Some of these are made pretty instantaneously but it will run into three figures every day I guarantee you. We spend a good proportion of our time making decisions: where to go, when to go, who to go with, what to spend our time doing, how much to spend, how long to spend etc.

Many of these decisions are made without input from others. When I work from home I decide that I am going to make myself a cup of tea so I venture into the kitchen and put the kettle on. I open the fridge to retrieve the milk that I’ve decided to add to the tea and decide to eat a couple of mouthfuls of last night’s left-overs. I decide to put the television on and choose to remain there flicking through channels for ten minutes. There’s a handful of decisions being made in that one paragraph and no one is any the wiser. But what about the ones where others are involved? This is when it becomes more difficult to make that no choice.

Take ‘Please could you give me a lift to the station later?’  You’ve got a whole range of choices there haven’t you? Do it gladly, do it reluctantly, don’t do it, decline and offer an alternative solution. Feeling that you have a choice is a wonderfully liberating mindset to have. But do you?

Why do you feel manipulated into saying yes when you really want to say no?

This isn’t meant to necessarily be a lesson in how to say no, rather encouraging you to consider where you need to start doing it, but there are a couple of quick pointers to start you off.

  1. The broken record technique has been lauded in assertion circles for many a year and it works. Repeat the same response on several occasions without necessarily using exactly the same words. Be clear with your message that no is a no on this occasion.
  2. Look the other party in the eye when saying no. Smile if you need to while you’re at it (without gloating!) conveying the sense you’ve firmly come to this decision and you are confident and content with it. It’s not personal but it is the answer.
  3. Be clear on your rationale for your ‘no’ response. You don’t have to share it with those who might have been looking for the alternative answer, but having clarity in your own mind and a reason that can be delivered if called on will help you to be confident in delivering your response.

Now it’s time to put this into action – ready to start straight away? What do you mean no? Wow – you’re a quick learner!

About the author

Mike Jones is Managing Director of Momentum (People Development) Ltd and has nearly thirty years’ experience in the Learning and Development industry. Mike has delivered at conferences, facilitated workshops and is a highly sought after speaker. Mike is the author of Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself (Panoma Press) which poses 52 questions to help readers to arrive at the answers needed to move on to the next stage of their life with greater desire, determination and optimism for the future.


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