01/30/2013 01:39 EST | Updated 03/30/2013 05:12 EDT

Knowing How to Say No, From A Former Yes-Person

Like many of us, I used to be a Yes-person, agreeing to do things I knew were either out of my realm, a strain on my schedule, or of absolutely of no interest to me. All that changed after a recent experience that led to an epiphany about another way to say no.

It started with an invitation to speak at a corporate event, and it was all wrong from the get-go. The date was inconvenient, the location was out of the way and the pay was lousy. But the meeting planner presented such a convincing case that I just didn't have the heart to turn her down. So, despite my better judgment, I agreed to do something that my gut was nudging me to dodge.

From the second I said yes I knew I'd made the wrong decision. Things went from bad to worse on the day of the event; turnout was poor, people were late and even the meeting organizer was a no-show. To top it off, her stand-in - who ran through the door at the last minute to greet the professionally-clad audience - was inexplicably wearing pyjama bottoms. Despite all that we got the program underway on time, and the event was a success.

When all was said and done, that awkward experience ended up being one of the most valuable of my career. As I walked to my car following the event I realized that if I'd paid attention to the messages my soul was sending at the very beginning, I would have easily avoided getting involved in something that wasn't a good fit.

It can be hard to forgo an invitation or opportunity, even when things feel out of sync. We often say yes to commitments that feel more like burdens than benefits only because we have no idea how not to. We may think we'll be disappointing someone if we say no or that saying yes will make us more likeable or accepted. Either way, the time we subsequently spend doing things we'd prefer not to can never be recovered.

That's where a new way of saying no comes in. This unique perspective will make it easy for you to make firm decisions from now on, and it's easy to do. Simply listen to your instincts when making choices, and whenever you hear that little voice inside you screaming, "Don't do it!" replace the word no with the word know.

It may sound the same to them, but it's coming from a completely different part of you. Your inner voice always knows what is best for you, and honouring it empowers you to say no with confidence. So, the next time you're asked to participate in something you're not interested in, reply with, "I appreciate your invitation. My answer is know." If you feel obligated to say yes to yet another committee position or unnecessary meeting, say, "My schedule is full right now. I'm going to say know."

Looking at the word know is revealing, because it actually contains the word no within it. It's like the letters on either end are parentheses, pillows if you will, to soften the blow of no. Think of the K on one end representing Knowledge and the W on the other end representing Wisdom. From that angle, saying no actually becomes easy.

Give it a never know what may happen. Just last week I was invited to a corporate function that I knew I didn't have time to attend, and this time I wasn't even tempted to say yes. Instead, I listened to myself, smiled and effortlessly said, "Know, thank you!"