03/04/2014 08:47 EST | Updated 05/04/2014 05:59 EDT

Three Guilt-Free Ways to Say "No"

Saying no can be a challenge for even the most well-oiled productivity machine. (Who could I think that is?)

There is a culture around yes which makes us all feel that we need to say it and say it a lot. Saying no somehow makes a person the bad guy. At least this is what my guilt-o-meter tells me more often than not.

I have said yes to things that I had no business saying yes to. Things I had no time for, no interest in, could not afford...all manner of yesses have slid past my lips so I feel confident in saying that I have been around the yes-block and have come back with a better roadmap than when I started. That map leads away from the block, the round and round making rights: yesses.

Beyond the fact that with a deep history of yes, I get asked for more is the fact that those of us who do the most in life, tend to be asked to do more, more often. Whether that is just exposure to more people for prospective asks or if it is that people think we are capable of more because we do more, or if they think we sleep in hyperbolic chambers and have unlimited access to personal time machines which allow us to remain fully rested and have infinite access to time. I wish I were all of these things, I do, but in all actuality, I am a basic human who has the exact same number of milliseconds in a day as the next guy.

One fine day, after so many darn yesses, I woke up and thought -- what the hell am I doing today that I like to do, that will drive my business forward, that will support my family in more time and adventure together? The answer was a very raw truthful -- zilch.

Because of guilt, I finished up that day of yes-induced commitments and decided that I had to find a way to say yes while saying no. Seeing as I knew myself too well to know that going straight to no would be like signing up for a year gym membership. Amped up out of the gates and then out of gas with no afterburners left within a month -- then months of pre-approved changes on my card of intentions.

In order of implementation, from the training-wheels version to the Ferrari of no, here are the three ways you can say no, guilt free:

  1. Say no but yes to something smaller or more aligned with a direct interest. No, I do not want to sit on the Parent Council but I would love to be involved with the set up and tear down when you do fun night -- please be sure to put my name down for that commitment because I would love to give back to the school. Thank you for thinking of me.
  2. Say no but hook up the person/cause with someone you know who could/would want to say yes. No, I am not able to read your transcript about a sex crazed business vampire, but I have a girlfriend who is big into the vampire series -- if you are looking for an opinion from someone who might be in your target audience to provide you with feedback, I would be happy to ask her if she might like to read it.
  3. Say no because the only kind of 'you' that you give is the 100 per cent. No, I cannot pick up the girls after dance lessons and bring them by your house on my way home because I will be rushed that day and I do not want to stretch myself too thin given that I know that already. That day just does not work for me.

If you are like me that used to think that #3 sounds harsh -- you are wrong -- you just have not evolved into the comfort zone yet. What you will find as you move through from #1 to #3 is that people will respond to your increasing 'no' by both asking less and respecting your time more. Some may think you are putting yourself first or that you are being greedy with your time. I hope that they do. Because putting yourself first and being greedy with your time is the only way to ensure that you are able to give 100 per cent of yourself 100 per cent of the time to the life you most desire. Don't hog up all of the opportunities for 'doing' things -- there are other people out there just as capable, who may have the time and the want to help out. Imagine that.

So, right now, take 15 seconds and look at the day you have ahead of you. Where can you start to say yes to yourself and no to the asks, while still helping out? Remember, that once you feel comfortable just saying flat out no, you can still use #2 and #1. Refocusing and redirecting asks can be as good as a yes -- and sometimes even better for the person asking because they might get 100 per cent of someone who is willing and able as opposed to 70 per cent of someone who is just guilty.

In the spirit of a well placed no,


P.S. - I would love to hear the kind of 'no' that you are challenged by. Visit my site and leave a comment. I'll see you in the comments there.

P.P.S. - If you know someone who wants to say yes to themselves a little more please pass this on. Forward this email or tweet it out. Say yes to the evolution of saying no.


6 Simple Ways Of Saying NO