Learning to say “No” may be the most important thing you’ve ever done.
Saying “No” is hard. But No is the flip side of Yes. You need to say Yes to what you want in your life, and that means saying No to what you don’t want. It’s brutal. But it’s necessary. I’ve noticed that the times in my life I get the maddest and most frustrated is when I’ve said Yes to someone while really meaning No. The whole time, I end up resenting the fact that I said Yes in the first place. I need more No in my life.
But No is hard! Fortunately, William Ury wrote the book on the topic. The Power of a Positive No guides us in saying No so we can say Yes to what matters most.
My pal Bernice knows this. Bernice and Melvin are planning their wedding. Now that Melvin officially knows that they’re getting married, he’s offering helpful suggestions, like putting video game consoles on every table at the reception so the guests have something fun to do. Bernice did not expect Melvin to be so … helpful. Now, she needs to say No.
Step #1: Say YES to Yourself
When you want to say No, it’s because you have a competing commitment you care about more. You want to say No to keeping your Nirvana T-shirt because you need room for your new Justin Bieber T-shirt. No to Nirvana is Yes to Justin Bieber. You need to say No when your boss asks you to work the weekend because you have an important beer funnel party to attend with friends. No to work is Yes to beer funnels.
When I asked Bernice why she didn’t want game consoles at her reception, she said, “Because I want guests to interact with each other! Research shows that health and happiness comes from relationships, not game consoles.” Bernice’s No to the Playstation 4, XBOX, and Wii is a Yes to lifelong health and happiness.
Finding your Yes is an important first step to saying No. It connects you with what’s really driving your No deep down inside. Once you have this connection, you know why you’re saying No, and it gives you a stronger sense of resolve.
Step #2: Say NO to Them
Now you’re ready to say No to them. But first, build your power base. Think about the other person’s motivations. What do they want from the situation, and is it easy to give it to them? Bernice realizes that Melvin just wants something to entertain his gamer friends.
You must also review your own plan B, so you aren’t desperate to say Yes. Now that she realizes Melvin’s interests, Bernice has a plan B. She’ll offer to put game consoles in the side room, but not directly on the dinner tables. She’s pretty sure Melvin will go for that.
You also need to know if the other person can force you to say Yes. Bernice knows that Melvin has no power here. Indeed, it was only through unfortunate accident that he even found out about the wedding before he was actually walking down the aisle. But that’s not always true.