The way of the essentialist is to gain mastery over the art of saying NO.
When to say NO: Say no to everything that doesn’t forward what is essential to you. This includes things that are essential to your well-being, your life style, your values and your business. This requires clarity about what is essential. Do you know? If not, spend the time to build this clarity and then write the essentials down and keep them where you can see them every day.
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” Stephen R. Covey
This clarity allows us to make deliberate decisions about when to say Yes and when to say NO.
How to Say NO: Interestingly, studies show that people who say NO resolutely yet gracefully gain more respect, are seen as more professional and are significantly more effective than people who make a vague or non-committal YES.
Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism, makes these great points to help us master the art of saying NO gracefully:
- Separate the decision to say NO from the relationship. Use courage and compassion to communicate that your decision is not personal.
- You can choose not to use the word NO to say NO. “I appreciate you offering me this opportunity but I am unable to take on any more projects at this time.” Or “I appreciate you choosing me as your agent but at the price that you are expecting and the limitations on the showings, I am unable to help you.”
- Focus on the Trade-Off. Every time you say yes to something, you say NO to something else. If you have clarity about what is essential, a graceful NO will grow out of that conviction.
- Recognize that saying NO may require you trading respect for popularity. Popularity is over rated anyway and studies show that after their initial annoyance or disappointment with the NO, peoples’ respect for you will deepen.
- A clear NO is more graceful than a vague or noncommittal Yes. Stringing people along or saying yes and not fulfilling your responsibilities to the best of your ability will damage your reputation and undermine your confidence and happiness.
Saying NO can be incredibly difficult. We may feel like we are rocking the boat, stirring things up or even burning bridges (See Blog Post on Metaphors) . We may feel like we are going to miss out on something important. There may be strong social pressure to say yes and a NO causes awkwardness, guilt and even physical discomfort. It takes courage and courage comes from conviction.
If you say NO, you may feel regret for a few moments.
If you say Yes, you may feel regret for days, weeks, months and even years.
“People are effective because they say no” Peter Drucker
Having the courage to dare to say NO is key to a successful life.