Woman showing x sign with her handsNah to the ah to the no-no-no

These are the words I heard my 6-year old daughter singing in the back seat last week. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple of months, you’ve heard it, too. It’s the new Meghan Trainor song, encouraging all women to say no to the poor guy in the bar who decided to hit on some girl on the very no-est of days.

On the whole, it’s pretty fun to sing, I must admit. I catch myself all the time. This song, newest in a series of “I-don’t-care-what-you-think, I’m a do what I want” empowerment tunes by the fierce MT, made me wonder: Why don’t we say no? Not just to avoid dancing with someone but in a larger context, why don’t we say no to more – why do we feel like we are duty-bound to say yes to all the requests that come our way?

We are overwhelmed, overscheduled and overcommitted because we are over-yessing ourselves!

Just this week I received an email from a sweet friend who, bless her, has more business than she can handle: “I’m slammed with work. It’s great for the bottom line, but not so great for the work-life balance. I need to learn the word ‘no’ before I lose my mind.”

Isn’t “No” the first word we ALL learn? It’s the best, fastest and easiest way toddlers let you know that they have needs and wants and they are not the same as yours. It’s a toddler’s way of establishing a boundary.

Have we really unlearned the word “no” or is something else going on?

Often, we are so intimidated by the word that we would rather sacrifice our time, our teeny bits of happy places, our hobbies, our work or our families than we would say “no” to something.

  • We’re afraid if we say no to the extra-visible, super-politically-positive committee position at work that we will not be seen as a team player, we won’t get that promotion or that we risk not being asked again.
  • We’re afraid that if we don’t volunteer for that walk-a-thon for the third year in a row or for the teacher appreciation committee that people will think we’re not being generous, that we don’t care enough or that we are leaving the work to those who are already stretched too thin – how selfish!
  • We’re afraid that when we decline the invitation to the party or happy hour that we might not be asked again, that we might miss out on some juicy conversation or that we might have had more fun at the event than we would have participating in our own original plans.

Is this universal or consistently true? Nah to the ah. Does the tendency to find a way to say yes to everything supersede the will to say no on a regular basis? Yah to the ah…yes, yes, yes.

Is this speaking to you at all?

We don’t need to re-learn how to say no – we need to learn how to say it differently than a 2 year old.

Proficiency with this skill allows you to know and maintain your boundaries and do the things that give you energy – not the things that drain it. Being good at saying no the right way will help you maintain your positive relationships and your stellar reputation. Most importantly, people who know you know you will also know your boundaries and know where they stand with you.

Does it seem impossible to say no and see this kind of magic happen? It’s not. You can download my cheat sheet for some ideas on what to say. You don’t have to be a magician, but you do have to practice. Think about the diplomatic “no” in four parts: Appreciate, Confirm, Decline and Propose. We can appreciate being thought of, confirm what we want, diplomatically decline and then propose an alternative.

There is only one part of the diplomatic “no” that is absolutely essential: Decline.

What about the potential downside that lurks on the other side of not saying “yes”? Let’s be real, we can’t say no to everything. There is no doubt you must weigh the balance of the actual benefit vs. the actual cost of saying yes or no to that opportunity that crosses your path and you must ask yourself how likely it is that your imagined scenario may result:

  • Will people really change their opinion of you if you decline that happy hour?

  • Will you really lose the promotion if you don’t serve on the employee satisfaction committee? Does that mean all the other work you have done doesn’t count?

  • Will this volunteer opportunity be the last one you have to contribute to that favorite non-profit? Is it possible they will never ask you to help them again?

Nah to the ah to the no-no-no. Our imagined scenarios rarely reflect the reality we experience.

Your challenge is to think about that one thing you are stressing out about, that one thing that has you wondering, “WHY did I commit to THIS?” and take the risk to say “no.” Will you be bold? Will you try it? Don’t forget, if you struggle with what to say, download my free cheat sheet to get some ideas!

Let me know what happens as a result, will you?

Go be awesome!