We all like to say ‘yes’. It feels agreeable and collaborative. It’s part of human nature and it’s important for leadership. It can open new opportunities and make people happy. Throw ‘no’ in the mix and many of us struggle, in both personal and professional scenarios. But as leaders, we inevitably find ourselves needing to reject ideas, turn down proposals, and refuse requests. Here’s why we need to get comfortable with saying no, and how we can start to embrace it:
Yes… can be the key to no
If you’re really struggling with ‘no’, your old friend ‘yes’ can give you a bit of help. If you’re in a tricky conversation and trying to create a healthy dialogue around priorities, acknowledge the request with ‘yes’ but quickly follow it with ‘and’. The ‘and’ gives you the chance to explain constraints around the request and is a good first step towards pushing things in the right direction.
Remember when you say ‘yes’ to one thing – you’re saying ‘no’ to something else
Every time you agree to a job or action, or feel the need to assist, try to remember to ask yourself what the consequences will be? What are the things that matter to you most? Take a step back and ask yourself whether you are clear on your own priorities. If the request aligns with your business goals (and priorities), go for the ‘yes’. If not, a ‘no will help you go further and faster.
There is a reason behind every action – what’s yours?
People who have challenges around saying ‘no’ often have a fear of acceptance, but you can’t be or do everything for everyone. Learn to set boundaries. If you say ‘yes’ all of the time, you won’t have any energy left for yourself and will be less able to support others when they really need you. Remember that your time is precious, so allocate it to the people and projects where it’s needed most.
Don’t give into guilt
Guilt is another reason many of us default to saying ‘yes’. No one wants to feel that they are disappointing others. Does it sound familiar? It can help to remind yourself that ‘no’ is a valid and reasonable response to situations. It sounds simple but try writing the word ‘no’ down and put it somewhere you’ll see regularly. This visual cue can help to rewire your brain so guilt becomes less of a factor in your decision making.