Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Power of 'No'

We live in a world where we seem to find the need to rationalize almost everything. When was the last time you said “No” to someone and didn’t have to feel the need to explain yourself or rationalize it? Do you feel that same need when you say “Yes” to them? Not generally.

What really amazes me is when we rationalize the ‘No-s’ to those we don’t even know. Take for example the person who calls from the duct cleaning company at dinner time. After a 12 hour day do you WANT to have a conversation with a person who wants to take the insides of your house apart? How many excuses do you give as to why you’re not interested? Perhaps you should get their name and number (how do they ours by the way?) and call them in the middle of their dinner.

How many times have you found yourself saying “Yes” only because the smaller, 2-letter word was much more difficult to articulate, and before you know it, you’re up to your eyeballs in work, deadlines, commitments and the one who is suffering, not sleeping, is constantly feeling the guilt of being late and not delivering is you. And who exactly is to blame for that?

If you can’t say the word and mean it then there’s no point in saying it at all, because you’ll just beat yourself up afterwards with guilt and find a way to do it for them anyways. Does that work for your credibility? I think not.

One of the best gifts you can give yourself and others around you is learning how to say “No” and mean it. It shouldn’t become a way of life so you’re saying “No” to everything; it’s being strategic about it and what you say “Yes” to. It’s being open, honest, choosing what it is you will devote your time to and doing it well. It’s learning not to jump in with both feet whenever you’re asked to do something just because you were asked and figure out what is the best possible choice and use of your time, knowledge and energy.

OK I can tell you this now because I finally got it, but let me tell you….because I was able to get it and do it, the most amazing opportunities have presented themselves and I actually have the time to devote to them. If I was so tired and over committed I would have had to say no to the opportunities that would grow both me and my business.

This month I was supposed to be in the U.K., California, Toronto and Montreal in the space of three weeks. Add in my Shadow Coaching™ (actual work work where I’m supposed to be aware, energized and ‘present’), writing, preparing for the upcoming trainings and marketing material for them and if I had done them all, I would have close to killed myself. I decided to take a good long look at options. The U.K. was a training and an opportunity to see my son. California was a meeting of like-minded professionals looking at the future of coaching in organizations. Toronto was a huge milestone meeting and the first face to face meeting with one of the think tanks I’m a key player in and Montreal, a family event. On top of that, add book sales from our recent launch, dealing with correspondence post New York Times article and, well, life could be very overwhelming.

First of all I took the time to analyze things properly. Family event, is a given. So Montreal is a definite. Toronto, also a definite as this is critical meeting. The others were both amazing opportunities but were they the right time, were the right people involved and was it what I needed to be doing right now? On top of that equation I asked myself was it what I needed to grow me and/or my business in the way I wanted to grow? Those two questions gave me the answer I needed. The California meeting in concept was amazing. It was the first of many to come. I read the agenda and realised the topics that would be covered was what I was doing professionally 10 years ago. Would I grow? Perhaps in off-line conversations but did I have to spend thousands of dollars and precious time to go to California to do that? No. Not only did I refuse the meeting but I told them that unless they got their act together and started looking at forward trends and not ‘what was’ in coaching, I would be refusing the next one as well. It got them thinking and I just might be going to the fall symposium. We’ll see.

And the U.K., well… when I spoke to the person who was going to host my training and was giving me all these criteria I had to meet, including reduce numbers to fit a room, I realised it was a definite no. I won’t compromise my training for anything, especially the size of a room not to mention explain myself to death so one person might be comfortable with what I would be teaching. I’m not even sure that type of personality should be taking the training never mind Shadow Coaching. The clincher would have been seeing my son but taking into account he’s coming back home in 2 weeks, that no longer was a factor. That one I cancelled. Two other opportunities presented themselves which I was able to run with. If I had been traveling I would have missed the boat, never mind not had a second to do either of them properly.

Ask yourself the question, “Yes or no”. Answer it openly, honestly, with commitment, foresight and conviction. Because if you don’t define your personal boundaries, someone else will!

Donna Karlin

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