Is it too early for New Year’s Resolutions?
One of mine is to learn to say “No.” More often. Better.
To that end, I offer you a week’s worth of “No’s” in the form of guest posts. First up, Dr. Steven Lake talks about The Power of No.
No may be a short word but it is a powerful word. It is the Napoleon of words, short and stocky and always looking for new territories to conquer. Unfortunately, it is a word that is rarely used by “nice” people. Too bad! It is “nice” people who need it the most.
Are you a nice person? I am. I confess. Whenever someone asks me to do something the word yes is out of my mouth before I have time to think. I say yes to anything and with enthusiasm no less. I get lots of requests. Let’s go skiing. Let’s raise money for a needy person. Let’s do a workshop together. Let’s move the fridge up three flights of stairs. Let’s, let’s, let’s! Yes, yes, yes!
Why does yes spew out of my mouth so quickly? I think part of it is our culture. We are a people who help out. If you need help, just ask. Who knows, I may need your help. So we say yes and build up help credits. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It becomes problematic when our yeses start to negatively affect our health and mental well-being. Feelings of guilt and resentment as well as physical exhaustion are tell-tail signs that you are a victim of yesitis. Too many yeses can lead to one big no as your mind and body try to reject this dis-ease.
Yesitis is a swelling in the part of the brain that wants to be liked at all costs. Typically this disease has infected the person when they were a child and has become part of the personality making it difficult to remove without damaging. . . well, you get the idea. Almost everyone has yesitis. Some people are aware of it and others are not. Either way, it ends up leaving a bitter taste in the mouth.
What is a nice person to do? The first step is to see the power and usefulness of no. No can stop tanks. Remember that fellow in Beijing who stood in front of a tank, put his hand out and said “no.” That’s power. No can save lives as well. A well placed and loud no can stop a child from running out into the street. No sets boundaries. It tells others what you are willing to do and what you are not.
No can be used anywhere and with anyone. It can even be used when you are all alone. Screaming NO at the top of your lungs is an experience everyone should try at least once before they die. Personally, I would love to do it when other people are around just to shock them. Can you imagine?
Maybe that’s where we need to start. By imagining with whom or where you need to say no. No, I will not leave a tip when I get bad service. No, I will not kiss you when I am angry. No, mother, I will not run errands for you until I have taken care of my family first and then only if I have time. Imagine the scenario, then say no out loud to get used to this incisive word. Do you say no softly or loud and with authority? Play with the word. Elongate the vowel – nooooo. Sing it, shout it and snarl it. Sound like you mean it.
Another way to deal with all those requests is to learn the power of delaying an answer. This is a valid interim step until you feel confident of saying an outright and unequivocal no. When someone asks you to do something pause, take a breath, and say, “Oh, I would love to do that but I will need to think about it (or consult my PDA, talk to my wife/husband, consult my astrologer). Can I get back to you in an hour/day/week etc.?”
This action will give you time to think if you want to do the task, if you have time, and if it works in with other plans and people in your life. It also gives you time to build up the courage to say no by knowing what you really want and being honest.
Don’t worry, you won’t say no to everything. That is just your fear. You are a nice person and it would be almost impossible for you to forget how to say yes. And remember, it is always easier to change a no to a yes than a yes to a no.
Steven Lake, PhD: Dr. Lake works with individuals and organizations helping them overcome crisis situations. Whether it is relationship breakdown, violence in the workplace, or improving communication skills, Steven brings over thirty years of experience working with people as well as his advanced education in Counselling (Masters) and Educational Administration (PhD) to his understanding of interpersonal and group dynamics leading to improved problem solving processes. www.executivesupportnet.com