Just Say No

This week, my roommate and I switched our Internet provider. Bad decision.

After a few days of coffee shop work sessions and borrowing the Wi-Fi of kind friends, we called the provider to address our concerns. Within the first five minutes, we learned that our selection was the only speed available in our area, and that with that speed, our current connection was as good as it gets.

Determining we had all the answers we needed, I walked away from the call. When I returned 40 minutes later, my roommate was still on the phone with the technical support team.

I can only imagine the bewildered look on my face as I exclaimed “Why are you still on the phone? Cancel our plan.” She muted the phone and replied, “I don’t want to be rude and just say no.”

It’s funny – “no” is such a simple word. But for most of us, we act as if it’s not even in our vocabulary. And if you’re anything like me, when you do say no, you find yourself offering all sorts of justification.

Why do we feel compelled to explain? To reduce our guilt complex? To restore our image so we don’t seem flaky? Here’s a little secret I’ve learned: they don’t really want to know the 485,283 things you have going on that prevent you from committing.

I often remind myself of the words of Anne Lamott:

“No is a complete sentence.”

Don’t justify yourself until you’re out of breath. If you’ve chosen to say no to coffee, a project, meetings, or an event, you have to believe that others will trust your judgment. And if they don’t, it was never worth your time in the first place.

I love this video from Kenny Nguyen, founder of Big Fish Presentations. He explains that as children we are taught that “no” means rejection–of ideas, requests, opportunities. Now he’s on a mission to transform our understanding of the word.

“It isn’t about rejection. It’s about utilizing the power of the word ‘no’ to grow.”

A little while back we talked about how “no allows you to say a better yes.” That’s how you grow. You make hard decisions about what you want to chase and what is worthy of your of time. Because, believe it or not, time is finite. And once you’ve made those decisions, you are able to dive in head first and devote everything necessary to create something remarkable – something far greater than would’ve been possible had you said “yes” one too many times.

Focus on the things you’re passionate about, the things you have time and energy to commit to, and the things that are most important to your life and career. Say yes to those things. If it doesn’t fit those criteria, just say no.

“It’s not hard figuring out what you want your life to be about. What’s hard is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.” -Shauna Niequist

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