• ‘No’ is not just a word, it is a sentence!

    Say “no” to make your “yeses” mean more.

    How do you feel when you have to say ‘no’ to someone?

    Do you experience any of the following feelings or emotions:

    • You feel an immediate sense of awkwardness?

    • You stomach tightens?

    • You heart rate picks up?

    • You feel a huge wave of anxiety sweep over you?

    • You feel guilty?

    • You feel you have acted too forcefully or aggressively?

    Or, do you capitulate, bow to the self-imposed pressure that you or others have placed upon you because you believe that saying ‘NO’ will be detrimental to you in some way? Do you end up saying to yourself:

    “Oh, I couldn’t possibly refuse”

    “I don’t really want to do this, but I had better say yes”

    “I want to say ‘NO’ but feel that if I do I will insult, annoy or disappoint someone”

    Trouble is, you resent having to say ‘YES’ all of the time. Every time you say ‘YES’, when you really wanted to say ‘NO’, means that you have to compromise at best your own beliefs and sometimes rights.

    Even when you do pluck up the courage to say ‘NO’, you manage to say it with pangs of guilt, stress or worry. The ‘NO’ that you actually issue is probably weak, full of tonal apologies and sends a vocal message that you could be persuaded to a ‘YES’.

    Because you do not whole heartedly issue a confident ‘NO’, you allow your questioner to think that your ability to stand by your convictions, your own reasoning and requirements could be compromised, eroding further your self-esteem. Therefore - “If you can’t say ‘NO’ then your ‘YES’ doesn’t mean much.”

    Saying ‘NO’ with confidence and deliverance allows one to keep one’s self respect, self-esteem and personal respect intact. It can ensure you make more realistic commitments, stand up for your values and earn others’ respect.

    Saying “No” does not help just you; it can also improve the health of your team, organisation, family or community.

    So the question becomes how to bring your negative “NO” to a positive “YES” without undermining your position or theirs, in a way that is appropriate and agreeable to both parties.

    There are some methods to help one practise the art of achieving a successful ‘NO’:

    1. Examine your own history with saying “No” and the internal beliefs you carry as a result. If you are like many people, you may have difficulty in saying ‘NO’ out of fear about your own position, power and authority.

    • Try to look at your inheritance, taking stock of your history and its impact on your stance toward boundary-setting.

    • Try to articulate your own present-day views and values about saying “NO,” so that you are operating from a perspective that feels current and supportive.

    2. Think of all the ways one can deliver a ‘NO’:

    Sweetly, acerbically, forcefully, passively, fearfully, bitchily, authoritatively, quietly, unshakably, tentatively, etc.:

    • Taking a little time each day to experiment with using different versions of “NO”. See how each one makes you feel. See if you can identify ways of saying it that feel comfortably powerful to you.

    • Try saying ‘NO’ in places where doing it unskilfully will not have big negative consequences.

    • Practise and get oneself acquainted and familiar with saying ‘NO’ where necessary.

    3. Examine the environment and the colleagues you work with:

    • Ask yourself, what separates those individuals who earn respect from others, yet regularly say ‘NO’ at least 40% of the time, from those individuals who can be aggressive, passive or submissive and yet rarely say ‘NO’.

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