Reports from early childhood indicate that ‘no’ was my first word.
Maybe that’s why I’ve never hesitated to say no in my professional life. Not because I’m a negative person. Rather the opposite: I’m quite positive about what I want.
It’s been my experience that really positive things can come out of a negative. They are two sides of the same coin. But here’s the tricky part: you have to say yes to harness the power of no.
Let me give you an example.
I said no to a new job opportunity not long ago because I really believed I could do great things as a consultant. I needed to close one door to open the other.
That was my ‘yes’ – starting a new business. Saying no allowed me to focus on what I really wanted to achieve in my career.
And recently, I turned down a potentially exciting project that would have brought me a lot of exposure. Not because I don’t need it, but because it would have prevented me from saying yes to a lot of other work for clients I value.
In a culture that reveres the yes, here are 3 reasons to just say no:
1. Saying no can set you free.
It can be very liberating to say no. When it feels wrong in your gut. Or when it frees you up to yes to something else.
2. Saying no can save your soul.
And your integrity. It stops you from making promises you can’t keep. Saying no means you stand up for what you believe in. It can be uncomfortable to refuse to go with the flow. It can be lonely. But sometimes it just feels right.
3. Saying no can be a reality check.
In a culture that reveres the yes, people are often surprised to hear you say no. It can make them stop and think twice. Maybe they won’t agree. But it could be your no will make them see things differently. They might even agree with you.
And here’s a story about the power of ‘no’….
Back in the 1980s, Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign turned this statement into a catchphrase.
It all started when a child at a school she was visiting asked the first lady what she should do if someone offered her drugs.
“Just say no,” she replied.
The phrase went viral – which was saying a lot back in the pre-internet era.
When it comes to the choices you make in your professional life, saying no should never be a reflex.
But it must always be an option.