Thursday, September 27, 2007

How to say NO

Cubicle Rat
Cubicle Rat

This may sound obvious to some of you, but saying no is not always that easy. Please do not gasp at the is OK to say NO unless you live in fear of your life.
Why is it so hard?
We are surrounded by a world that wants and needs us to say YES. Yes to higher taxation, yes to that new car, yes to the new credit card, yes to poor service, yes to waiting lists, yes to factory farmed food, yes to higher energy prices and yes to wanting this or that.

Anya Kamanetz explains in this article how this affects 20 somethings and offers some practical steps to combat consumption pressure.

The question to ponder is why are you saying yes and what makes it so difficult to say NO.

A few weeks ago the Northern Rock building society was rescued by the Bank of England in a bid not to let the population panic. They told us not to panic, they tried to offer reassurance to savers and investors that their money was safe. There were many people who did not buy into that and said NO. I wonder how they felt, faced with branch managers who said , please do not take your money out? Is this news important. I think so.

It means that more people are saying no, no we are not buying it, no we have a choice. A world where people can make the decision to say yes for the right reason would be good, and a world where people equally can say no for the right reason would be good too. I am fully aware that there are countries in the world where people's needs are not met and where you cannot say no for fear of being eliminated. My post is directed at those of us who live in countries where apparently we do have a choice.

So now you have figured out how you spend your time, and how you spend your money you can work towards a balance between the two that is based on your decision making. I guess its going to shake up confidence in the markets and create a little more uncertainty when people change their buying habits.

Reduce - making decisions about time and money can create a more balanced life that is in line with your values, beliefs and priorities.
Reuse - you cannot reuse time ( living in the moment and being present when you are in the moment will provide maximum benefit in both time and money).
Recycle- again you cannot recycle time, but you can recycle your ideas about time and money.

I want, I need, now .....are buying signals that require a quick yes.
I want - you can say NO to want by checking whether you need it, how long have you known that you needed it, and how much is waiting going to cost you or save you. By the way, who says you want or your need it?
I need - Yes you may need something right away.....check why you need it, are you addicted, can you wait....
I used to need a coffee in the morning to be able to be awake and ready for work. Realising that I did not really need the coffee if I went to bed earlier and had sufficient sleep seemed not to be in my awareness at that time. (If you like coffee then thats another matter.)

Check out what it gives you, how does it fulfill your need, that is what 'I need' means, it fulfills a need in you. People laugh when I say I need to spin and knit. The creative process is a need that gets satisfied that way as well as through writing.

I used to get invited to sit on committees and mostly said yes. I guess I was flattered that I had been asked and it fulfilled a need for me to contribute in society. I sometimes asked what would be expected of me, how many meetings and what I was receiving in return but never really looked at whether what I needed would be fulfilled by this action.. It did fulfill a need of being accepted and valued but it also cost me time, travelling to and from meetings, sitting in cold rooms drinking coffee to keep awake and warm and endless sleepless nights about decisions the committee were making ( as well as too much coffee) that I was uncomfortable with. I could have used the assertive NO technique: Thank you but NO thank you. No explanation necessary.

The next step, if you want to go the next step, is to think about what saying YES means in terms of time and money. This technique checks out whether you are really valued. Most pop stars have riders :Yes I can do this but I need.....I will perform only when I have a bunch of fresh flowers in my changing room and I have to stay overnight in a really nice hotel with jaccuzzi. Whatever you need...... If they really want you at your best, then they must look at how they can fulfill your needs too. We are not all of us so extravagant in our needs, they may be more basic, a warm room, a comfortable chair, 3 meals per day etc etc.

I remember sitting on an interview panel where the chair suggested we skip lunch so we could see an extra candidate. I voiced that in order to listen to another 4 interviewees in the afternoon I would need to eat lunch and have a break and was frowned upon. The rest of the panel seemed to agree with the chair. This gave me an insight into what the man was actually requesting from the candidates too. I cannot say that I was at my best having snacked on almonds in my handbag and I used some extra questions to alert the candidates : What do you need to enable you to fulfill the requirements of the post that is being offered. The responses were astounding, some people who were confident in their abilities asked for salaries that were at the top end of what was on offer and others did not say anything. The chair's choice would waver towards those that did not answer the question as I guess he felt that he needed power. What he missed was by valuing and testing the expertise and innovation of the candidates that did state what they needed in order to perform, he could have had better performance and more value for the salary. I was not asked again to sit on the panel and if asked would have refused anyway.
To summarise, question why you are saying yes and why you are saying no and more importantly why you are not saying what you want to say.

Sally Lever has written an excellent article on Ratrace Stress and how downshifting can improve your health.


Ali said...

I have trouble saying no!!!! It is ssomething I am continually working on and I am slowly getting better, but if caught of guard and asked to do something I always say yes :(

Downshiftingpath said...

I have the same. Saying no probably was not nice when I was little and so I am still practising to say NO, but the most important thing to remember is that we have a choice ( we still have a choice I think), and if we have a clear idea of where we are heading with our lives and our priorities saying no becomes easier.