A “no” uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a “yes” merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.
– Mahatma Gandhi
One of the biggest reasons why people don’t like to say no is because they don’t want to damage a relationship.
There’s a great book called The Power of a Positive No by William Ury. The basis of this book is that there has to be an underlying yes that causes you to say no. The book gives a three-step process:
Step #1: Uncovering your “yes”
What’s the “yes” that you’re committed to, or that you believe in, or that you’re passionate about? This might be your family, your health, your well being, or doing work that you love.
In order to find a “yes”, it’s really important to understand our values, our beliefs, our commitments and our priorities. If we understand those things, we can make decisions that fit with them. Sometimes, that requires us to say “no” – but it also allows the person on the other side of the “no” to understand our reasoning.
Step #2: Empower your “no”
Use your “yes” as a reason and a justification to help you recognize that “no” is an appropriate response.
Saying “no” is about being present to what matters – and if we don’t say “no”, it costs us.
Step #3: Find an alternative “yes”
Decline the request gracefully, and instead of just saying “no”, offer an additional option or suggestion to help the person solve the problem, without you necessarily being involved.
When I have to say “no” to someone, I acknowledge that the request that they’re making does appear important, valuable, useful and/or relevant. I share the circumstances that prevent me from helping, or that have me make a different choice.
Observe your unhealthy yes’s and unhealthy no’s and reflect on what works and what doesn’t work. For instance, you might know that you need seven hours sleep to be your best, so you don’t want to say “yes” to a friend’s request to have another drink in the evening.
Take a moment to think about the things that you want to say “yes” to in your life. Is there anything that you need to say “no” to, as a result of these?