Sometimes You’ve Got to Say NO
I lead a rather busy life. Seems I’m one of those people. The ones who wear a sign that says – “Ask Julia,” or “Follow me.” And people do, for all kinds of things. The old saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it,” certainly applies. The thing is, it catches up to you after awhile. And if you’re like me, then what I’m analyzing could probably apply for you too.
Being able to say no graciously is a very important skill to me, on a personal as well as professional level. It’s the heart of successful delegation and mediation. And as near and dear to my heart as mediation and communication is, I still struggle to say no to someone really in need. Since I’m known for organizational skills, charity work and friendly information, I receive a lot of requests. However, there’s only so much I can personally take on.
I am passionate, but not infinite. And I feel people’s desperation and disappointment deeply.
To help me strengthen my communication skills to be able to gracefully and compassionately say no and yet not leave someone feeling devalued or neglected, I’ve ramped up my studies on a variety of communication skills. This is as much for my benefit as for others, as I also seek solutions to still help, without “helping,” if you get what I mean.
Along the lines of how to say NO, I’ve been listening to the audio book, “The Power of a Positive No: Save the Deal, Save the Relationship and Still Say No,” by William Ury.
Mr. Ury’s method is essentially what I was striving to learn better on my own. He takes you through a variety of scenarios from parenthood and divorce to hostage negotiations and international relations and promotes a framework of a clean and simple Yes-No-Yes framework. Yes to your foundational needs, no to the request, yes to the person (not the action) or another way. It is simple in nature, though there’s more to applying the principles in a variety of ways. The fact that this book presents so many scenarios of applying these principles is really helpful. I do recommend Mr. Ury’s book as an effective communications resource.
What If “No” Isn’t Really The Answer You Seek… What If It’s Cloning?
My business coach is having me lay out all the things that I am involved with, as well as those I could be involved with (including those things that I am contacted for and asked to be a part of and haven’t made a decision on yet). I am to prioritize and allocate hours a day or week that they require. And I’m finding it helpful to take that to the extreme of allowing for every single activity, no matter how small – even brushing my teeth. We take things like that for granted at times, but it requires part of our schedule. To truly see how much time you are spending and where, you’ve got to get to all the details. Not too unlike analyzing a financial budget, this is analyzing a time budget. Time is the one non-renewable commodity we really have. We are all equally allotted the same amount of it each day and once spent, it is gone. Spending it wisely is truly important.
My findings so far? Ummm…. Let’s just say I’m living on the wrong planet for all of it to truly work, even if I didn’t have a family. So I’m in the process of sorting through.
This exercise is helping me to prioritize and say “no” where I need to. But I’ve found it’s doing something more. It’s also helping me define what’s important to me, but instead of hanging on to it or letting it completely go, what I’d like to delegate to an enthusiastic colleague instead. And if needed, in a sense, I’m in the process of training others to replace me, so the gap for a need will be filled (making it less likely I’ll be sucked back in). This is in part due to requests from others who will say things like, “Do you have a clone? I don’t know anyone else like you,” when I do have to turn them down.
Similarly, I recently met someone moving to my area who is an old hat at social and online marketing since before it’s beginning. He’s also taking the time to train others to have them then turn around and take on a whole segment of his business needs – so he can then become their client! That, I think, is brilliant. Talk about being the solution you seek.
When people turn to and rely on you because you have the vision or expertise they seek (or maybe it’s just the force of will), and yet it’s not physically possible for you to “do it all,” sometimes the answer is no. However, I think sometimes the answer is to “replicate yourself.” To teach a man to fish. After all, we all wish we had clones! Spear-head the project, lay the foundation for the organization, so you can then turn it over to someone else to run.
I’m seeking to do this in many areas of my life, including areas as simple as what I do for my kids’ school. The main elements that competent people often lack besides experience are confidence and coaching/training. I am aware that I can help others find a foundation to then soar ahead on their own. Advising is not near the amount of time commitment as the actual driving. And the more of us to go around, the better.
So that’s food for thought for the day. See where it might apply for you!