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The 12 Gifts of Saying 'No'

As the year comes to a close, and it is time to set a vision for the year ahead, I have found myself constantly saying No this week. I said No to rushing through writing my next book. No to relationships and situations that were out of alignment with my values or goals. No to individuals who were flattering my ego, when the mutual benefit was out of balance. No to deadlines that weren’t realistic. No to work that wasn’t my core competency. Most importantly, I said No to trying to make others okay by saying yes when I needed to say No for myself. All these No’s may sound a bit negative, and yet, as I reflected on all my No’s, I found 12 incredible gifts we each receive by saying No more often. May next year be your year of saying No.

The 1st Gift of No: Yes. We hear it all the time, but in order to say Yes to one thing, we must say No to something else. We are always in a space where we are choosing and deciding. Each decision to take a particular action always sets aside our other choices. In essence, contained in every Yes there are a million No’s, and within each No, there is an affirmation and clear Yes.

The 2nd Gift of No: Freedom. My saying No to rushing through writing my third book, Inside Out Smart, provided me the priceless freedom to relax and enjoy sitting on the beach in Cancun without guilt. I still wrote 3-4 hours a day, but that seemingly enormous No allowed me to be in a freer mental space when I did write. I am confident that my writing improved, when I released myself from the prison of the original deadline. One call to my editor and publisher affirmed that a better-quality product was preferrable, allowed me another week with their support, and without the additional stress.

The 3rd Gift of No: Authenticity. We each have a voice that is uniquely our own. It expresses our individual perspective, insight, values, purpose and focus. When I allow my voice to fall silent as someone either ignores, shouts over, or demeans my voice, then I am being inauthentic. It doesn’t matter whether they were doing it intentionally or unintentionally. We do this self-disrespecting behavior out of self-doubt, because we think someone else’s opinion matters more, we don’t want to cause a rift, or hurt someone’s feelings.

When an individual I casually knew kept posting links to their content in my LinkedIn postings, under the guise of joining the conversation, I silently put up with it for months. This week I asked them to please feel welcome to share, but would they mind to stop dropping the links. For someone who purports to be love-centric, it was fascinating to see how they got verbally abusive in response. I get to ask for what I need, and if the other person doesn’t like it, we are both free to go our separate ways. I said Yes to my voice. The weight of their inappropriate behavior was lifted.

The 4th Gift of No: Creativity. When I stop trying to follow the herd, a whole new world of possibility opens up. I get to assess whether doing it someone else’s way actually works for me. If it doesn’t, I am free to blaze a new trail. That’s the entrepreneurial way, the leader’s way, and the innovator’s way. There is a subtle belief in business that someone else has it all figured out, and doing it their way is a shortcut to success. In fact, when I started doing it my way, my success accelerated over doing it “the way it ought to be done.”

The 5th Gift of No: Focus. Besides the Yes contained in saying No, there is an added focus we achieve. I am always working on something new and exciting – from workshops, to challenges, roundtables and retreats. I love creating growth experiences for myself and my clients. So, when an opportunity is presented to me, I must listen to my inner guidance and assess whether it provides a better focus area (adaptability!), or is undermining my present priorities. When I know my values and my priorities, then the ability to focus – or saying No to distractions – is much easier.

The 6th Gift of No: Growth. Saying No is anything but limiting. In fact, it maintains the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy reserves we need for our growth. Saying No to having my email open all the time, setting office hours, so I am saying No to being on call 24/7, and setting aside daily strategy time, by saying No to doing more, is vital to my ability to grow personally. It also is a requirement for growing my business.

The 7th Gift of No: Power. When a toddler begins to practicing saying No to their parents, they are learning to assert their autonomy. Our true power resides in our individual wants, needs and preferences. Saying No to something can be a misuse of our power if we are afraid of losing ourselves in a role, or if we are trying to control a situation. However, a kind and confident No is one of the best ways to step into our power.

The 8th Gift of No: Wisdom. True wisdom is the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships. I was recently dismayed to realize a fellow coach, whom I trusted, and whom I had invited to observe some of my work, was approaching my clients surreptitiously afterwards. I also observed her using some of my content in her work. While I remained confident of my client relationships, and understood her fear about her own business growth, I could see that this was not a healthy relationship for me. Instead of anger, I could simply respond by saying No to fostering that relationship, having learned a key lesson.

The 9th Gift of No: Self-Awareness. When we experience a sense of discomfort or disquiet, which can range from mild anxiety to overwhelm, then it is time to hit the pause, and explore what we need to say No to. Behind our unconscious yeses are old patterns, habits, and beliefs that can trip us up, and slow us down. Leaders who are self-aware are better able to recognize these and take a different course of action than they have in the past. This is key to resiliency, and it starts with saying No intentionally.

The 10th Gift of No: Compassion. When I have the compassion for myself to say No to something, I also have compassion for anyone I need to say No to as well. This actually generates a long-term sense of goodwill within us, and within the relationship. Initially it might feel a little uncomfortable, and yet, compassion nearly always generates more compassion, when we hold firm.

This happened to me recently where I was beginning to work with an amazing peer to build a retreat. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and yet every time we would begin to discuss particulars, I realized the energy was off, and our styles were very different. At first, I felt my saying No would be offensive, but as I shared my feelings in a way that extolled her virtues, I only asked that we pause. Her response was so full of graciousness! My ability to have compassion for myself first, and then her, generated even more compassion as a result between us.

The 11th Gift of No: Trust. So many of us small business owners believe that saying No to a client or a particular project, even though we may not have the resources to execute it effectively, is the worst sin imaginable. In fact, many times it makes us more trustworthy than saying Yes. It also makes us a high value provider, who holds their quality to a higher standard. Failure to disappoint is always preferable to a failure to deliver.

Recently I said No with great trepidation to a fast, several-thousand-dollar project because I simply did not have the resources needed for the quick turnaround. I was amazed when the project returned a few days later, for the same amount of money and three more weeks to deliver it. Sometimes when we build that kind of trust, we actually can have our cake and eat it too.

The 12th Gift of No: Peace. There is a peace that means a freedom from fear and anxiety. That is the wide-open space where all things are possible. That is when we become unstoppable. Peace like that is the peace that saying No in the right places, to the right situations, can provide.

As you step into the coming year, creating a vision, fresh goals, and an actionable strategy for yourself, make certain you give yourself the incredible gift of saying No more often. Your business will thank you for it. And your year will be filled with so many more Yeses.


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