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"No" is a full sentence.

“No” is a full sentence. This is by far some of the best advice I have received in my career (and life) to date.  I was recently attending a panel hosted by @ThePinkBoss when a very successful businesswoman dropped that gem.  A very simple assertion, it wouldn’t seem those words would be earth shattering, but in that moment it was like this huge lightbulb went off in my head that made me realize “OMG, yeah, it is”.  It’s that simple.

I struggle saying no.  Like really struggle.  I’ve taken on projects that I didn’t have time for (that I really did not have any desire to do), done plenty of free work and sacrificed myself for the sake of others a many a time all because I didn’t know how to simply say “no”.  And this is all my own fault, no one to blame- but myself.  My reasons for not wanting to say no?  I always want to help, I want to support those around me, I feel anxiety about upsetting those who feel compelled to come to me for my assistance…and I don’t ever want to be the bad guy.  But here’s the problem…when you’re constantly giving people that “yes” (even when you know you absolutely should be saying no) you are taking away precious time to focus on your own goals and priorities.  Even further, the most disturbing and sad thing for me is, usually that “yes” is not reciprocated when you are in your own time of need.

All that said, I am working on it.  And if your struggles have been the same as mine, you should be working on it too.  Next time you are asked for that favor you may/may not want to help with- be it professional or personal- ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I have the time?

2. What’s the opportunity/Why am I doing it?

3. Would this person do the same for me?

Answer those questions honestly and then use your own discernment to determine if it’s something you should lend your precious time too, or if it’s something you should politely decline.  Once you’ve made your decision, if it is a “no” don’t feel guilty about it and further, don’t feel the need to give a long drawn out explanation.  If it’s a “yes”, make sure your are saying yes without resentment (which would mean you really wanted to say “no” in the first place).  Your time belongs to you and you only.  You can never get it back, so choose wisely how you use and lend it.

Your first “no” is always the hardest one, but let me tell you, once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty liberating.  It’s one sentence that I happily plan to use much more often.  My sanity will thank me for it later, as will yours.