Episode 15: February 4, 2008
by Stever Robbins.
Today's topic is how to say "No" when needed to your boss, friends, and sweetie(s). The quick and dirty tip is to listen deeply, acknowledge their position, and say "No" kindly. My special guest is expert no-sayer, Byron Katie.
I love the phrase "Yes, Dear." It makes everything better at home. But not at work. Calling your boss "Dear" in public just doesn't cut it. Not even if you're married, or having an affair, or just being a smarmy corporate climber. The word "Dear" can get you ostracized, fired, and taken to court. But it's the word "Yes" that does the real damage.
Saying "No" Never Fails
Josh from St. Augustine, Florida asked "is there any productivity system that works 100% of the time?" The answer is, Yes, say "No." Too many "Yes"es overcommit us. If you say "Yes" to more than you can handle, you'll never, ever catch up. Period. It can't be done. Yet most of us have a very hard time saying "No," especially to our boss. "Miss my kid's soccer game because you screwed up the schedule again? Sure boss, I'd love to."
Why do we do this? If I'm going to be in a soul-destroying co-dependent relationship, why would I do it with my boss? I'd choose someone I love--like my snuggle bunny--to make me that miserable. But a better choice is learning to say "Yes" to yourself. Protect your boundaries. Only take on work you can handle. And say "No" when someone asks you to go past your limits.
The Consequences of Saying "Yes"
I can hear what you're thinking. "If I say No, I'll get fired. My family won't love me. Other kids won't play with me. I'll die alone in a gutter, smelling of booze, missing several teeth." Yes, it could happen. And if you say "Yes," you'll overcommit, lose your family, lose yourself, and live alone in a cubicle, smelling of mouse pads, missing your life. Your choice. Sure, saying "No" has real consequences. It's just that saying "Yes" does, too. And most of us are way too scared of the consequences of "No," and not nearly scared enough of the consequences of "Yes."
How to Say "No"
If it's your boss asking, you can just say, "My plate is full. Let's review my projects and decide what to change so I have time to add something" Then, review and reprioritize. Just make sure the new priorities get added to the objectives for your yearly review.
But if your boss won't listen to reason, or if it's your friend asking you to host an Edible Power Tools party, you just may need to say "No." The best "No"s I've ever heard are from Byron Katie, New York Times best-selling author of "Loving What Is" and "I Need Your Love--Is That True?"
She graciously agreed to an interview, where she demonstrated an honest "No." (What was she going to say, "No?") Saying "No" doesn't mean you have to get angry, defensive, or unpleasant. You listen fully to the other person. Acknowledge what they've said, and then say "...and no." Let's listen. Katie will demonstrate an honest "No." Listen carefully to her voice tone and the simplicity of her answers. She doesn't argue. She doesn't justify. She doesn't get angry or sarcastic. And she doesn't back down.
So I'll be your boss, and I'm going to ask that you skip some family time for work.
S: Hi, Katie! I know it's 3 o'clock Friday afternoon, but I just remembered I need the TPS report by Monday morning.
K: You know, actually, I'm unable to. I can't. But I know there's another way. Why don't you call ... so-and-so.
S: Oh, but Katie--I need YOU to do it.
K: You know, I hear that, and I'm unable to. Merry Christmas.
S: Surely, you could just do it tonight, after dinner.
K: You know, actually, I'm unable to. I can't.
S: This is going to show up on your annual review.
K: I hear that, and I think that's a very honest thing to do, because in reality, that's correct.
Now, a co-worker asking for a favor.
S: I am your co-worker. I have a hair appointment at lunch. Could you cover for me at the desk?
K: You know, actually, I'm unable to.
S: Oh, come on. I'll cover for you next time.
K: You know, I really appreciate that. I'll look forward to that for sure. And I'm unable to cover you on this one, but I know you'll have a great time at the hair-dresser.
S: You're not being a team player here!
K: You know, it really looks that way, doesn't it? And of course, as we know, I am.
Finally, a teenager who wants the car.
S: I'm a teenager and you're a mother.
S: Hey Mom! Can I use your car to go to the movies?
K: No, actually, no.
S: All the other kids' parents let them use the car.
K: Oh, my goodness, it's true, isn't it? You know, we really have different lives.
S: If you loved me, you'd let me use the car.
K: You know, it's so interesting you would say that. You know, I love you with all my heart, and I'm not letting you use the car.
S: Mom, I hate you! I hate you! Everything in my life that's wrong is wrong because of you.
K: Oh, honey. I'm so sorry you feel that way. I adore you.
Say "No" to Say "Yes"
Remember: sometimes you need to say "No" to interruptions so you can say "Yes" to your current commitments. Listen deeply, acknowledge the other person, and then say "No" from a place of kindness.
If you have a question about how to Work Less and Do More, e-mail email@example.com
or leave it on voicemail at 866-WRK-LESS.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!