The Power of “No”

15 Sep 2010 3:32 PM | Heather Kaye (Administrator)

"No." Simple. Clear. Direct. Effective. At times, it can be hard to hear and even harder to say. We set up cultures where saying "no" is not welcomed, but this makes saying "yes" meaningless. When we are told "no," we can feel offended, rejected and discouraged. And, we anticipate others will feel the same way. When we do offer a "no," we often beat around the bush or offer lengthy explanations. "No" helps us to set boundaries, get back on course, or finally let go. It communicates where we stand and what is acceptable.

Set Healthy Limits

How many times have you been sitting with a client, found yourself listening attentively, nodding with encouragement and wound up agreeing to additional work you won't or can't deliver? In this economic climate it is especially difficult to turn work away or set limits with a customer. Don't make the mistake of saying yes, too quickly. Take time out to reflect. It may take more time, money, talent or ideas than currently available. If you can't deliver, you lose credibility. Enter into a negotiative stance and be willing to walk away if the additional work is not in your best interest. Not being able to say "no" to a client can also have cascading effects on your organization. As you know, taking on unproductive or unprofitable work often results in greater burdens on your team and a loss of their respect and productivity.

Making an Excuse Does Not Help

Sometimes we say "no" and feel a need to justify ourselves. We tag on an excuse to ease the blow. "Kelly, your new program is great for our department, and I know you want other departments to use it, but it's just not the right time." If Kelly is the go-getter that you know she is, she'll keep the conversation alive because you left the door open. Excuses or rationalizations can prolong the inevitable, can be confusing and send the wrong message. When you know "no" is the answer, be clear and skip the explanations. Otherwise, you waste time and energy in needless conversations which may leave everyone feeling frustrated and diminished.

Saying "No" in a "Yes" Culture

It can be a shock to hear "no" from your boss, peers or team members. You are a good leader and have built a synergistic team in a positive atmosphere. You have a great new idea and want to share it. As a leader you might expect everyone to be your cheerleader. You certainly want to hear, "yes, yes, yes!" But, if a solid new idea is to be successfully received, give it a short test drive. Sound out the key players, enlist their buy in, and incorporate useful feedback. Securely engage others before your big reveal or you might not get out of the starting blocks.

Own your Part

Saying "yes" too quickly can be a sign of a lack of awareness and thoughtfulness. Saying "yes," when you want or need to say "no" is a form of dishonesty or may highlight your inability to let go. Offering excuses to try to be the "good guy" is disingenuous. Always expecting to hear a "yes" to your own ideas is not realistic and may leave you feeling disgruntled.

Take a good look at your behavior in these areas.

1) Notice what you are feeling. When you feel a twinge of guilt, or feel a familiar resentment begin to build because you couldn't set a limit.

2) Stop and reflect take a few moments of solitude and find your truth. This may take time, patience and a dash of humility, but it's worth it.

3) Think it through. When you find it, put words to it; say it out loud to yourself or to a trusted colleague.

4) Honesty breeds trust. Practice saying what is true for you even though others may not be comfortable with it. As you develop mastery in this area, you will learn how to speak with clarity and confidence.

Knowing when to say no and how to say it is essential in maintaining successful relationships with both clients and your team. You may also enjoy similar benefits in your personal relationships, and that is beneficial for everyone.

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