April 7, 2010

in DIY, Getting Started, Workshops

Someone invites you to work with them on a project–your (insert your spasm-struck body part here) chest tightens for a split second. If you are really smooth, you say, “Thank you, I’ll think about it.” I’m not smooth, so I (sometimes and working on rarely) say, “I’m really excited for you, great idea! That sounds like fun!”  And I really mean that–but it always sounds like more of a YES than I mean.  Either way, smooth or enthusiastically coltish, we both find ourselves hemming and hawing over the decision. Depending on our situation, we might even feel that saying NO is akin to breaking the rules (great tutorial on breaking the rules at Jeffrey Tang’s blog). If you find yourself twirling around these thoughts:

Should I? It could be good. I don’t want to hurt their feelings. Maybe I’ll make a pro/con list? Well, it won’t kill me, maybe it will make me stronger? I feel so guilty about not wanting to do this!

then you have officially entered into NO-gotiations. We are really talking our way around to NO–even though we know that’s the only true answer. We might even end up saying YES–but the energy of the No is undeniable. We drag it around and (okay, I’m just speaking for me here) get resentful, do a crappy job or end up having to pull out of commitments, which makes us feel even worse than if we’d just gone with No in the first place!

No-gotiating faster and with aplomb:
Listen to your body–it usually knows before you do. Keep a single post it note (or memo in your phone) handy and write down how you physically feel every time someone asks you a yes/no question today. What did you notice?
Write a script down for yourself and USE IT when you talk to folks. I keep them simple (and YES, I do have to keep these on my wall in my office and practice them), and customize them when needed:

NO, thank you (pause 2, 3, 4, 5)
I am intrigued! I need more information. How much time, money, energy, blood sweat and tears are involved?
Wow, I’m really flattered. Thank you, no.
I am not available for that. (pause 2, 3, 4, 5)

UPDATE: 7pm. My friend, Bob Peterson contributed this via Facebook today. It’s called the NO SANDWICH METHOD.

“It’s cheesy (not literally like provolone or swiss) but highly effective. The “bread” is letting the asker know you understand what is being asked (1st piece) The second slice is why you are saying no. The “meat” is “NO.” Not ” I can’t” or some other variation. It’s simple, but powerful. Ex. Wanna smoke a bowl? The “sandwich”…. “Hey, I … know you wanna get with me, but NO, b/c it’s not my thing, I’m a student athlete and don’t wanna get kicked off the team, etc….Like I said cheesy/corny, but it really works.”

Ask a trusted friend to listen to you. What do they hear?
Pound the pavement and find your way to your natural no. Oprah has a great series of articles on saying no.

Danielle LaPorte kicks butt–and she knows how to say NO! We did really fun interview for her new digital experience, The Firestarter Sessions, and somehow landed on selfishness, porn, entrepreneurial spirit and NOT-doing-it. Yes, you have to buy the thing to see the video. Yes, it’s worth it and yes, I became an affiliate (I get some moolah if you buy it from my link). Click on the image below to find out the scoop.

Say YES to saying no;

Where are you no-gotiating today?

Photo by fotogail. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

  • AlanaSheeren

    Great post! This is something I'm working on as a focus this year. Saying no to the good so I can say YES! to the great. Thanks for all the info.

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  • Melanie

    This is so true and so often overlooked! It reminds me that I need to focus on eliminating all of those icky obligations I took on by not saying “no”… then start saying “yes” only to the things that serve my priorities.

    The suggestion to notice how you physically feel after each request is such a good one!

  • dyanavalentine

    Absolutely inspiring, Alana: Yes To The Great, indeed. I'm keeping that thought close to me today. Thank you!

  • dyanavalentine

    Awesome, Melanie. I'd love to hear how this plays out for you–what you notice, what you say yes to. I think it's particularly important in this econ-atmosphere that job-seekers/career shapeshifters pay very close attention to what they say no and yes to. Follow the clues:)

  • Melanie

    The biggest thing I've noticed is how tense I get, before I even mentally process the requests for my time. My cells seem to know before I do that anything that doesn't serve my short list of priorities is going to be a time suck.

  • dyanavalentine

    Yep, the Cells Know. Good self-awareness–we could all take a note on this from you. I have practiced the “this sounds very interesting, I'll get back to you within 24 hours” script when considering requests. It really helps! Good luck and let us know what you learn along the way.

  • Melanie

    Dyana, your comment sounds very interesting. I'll post a reply within 24 hours. 😉

    It's funny how saying no to the wrong things seems to open the floodgates for all of the right things. Good stuff, Dyana!

  • Dave Doolin


    I like it.

    The technique is classic, called by some the “101” or the “PNP.” As in 1-positive-0-negative-1-positive.

    Good stuff.

    Coming in from Tanya Geisler.

  • dyanavalentine

    thanks, Dave! I love the PNP–thanks for turning me on!

  • Lesley DeSantis

    ugh I needed this! This is exactly what's been on my mind lately. I am like, a compulsive yesser. Even when I know I want to say no, I can't help myself from thinking “well maybe this will have a return later!” or “man I know I'm the only person that can do this, and this person knows that, so if I say no it will sound really jerkish of me”, etc.

    I am paying for it now, having said yes to a couple of things I really wish I hadn't. But hopefully in these negative, resentful, not-doing-as-good-a-job-as-I-could-if-I-really-truly-wanted-to-do-it moments I will feel more motivate to say no in the future.

  • dyanavalentine

    thank you, Lesley: I can relate to being a compulsive yesser! I'm especially enthusiastic when something new and shiny comes my way. I've trained myself with some scripts: wow! That sounds really exciting (then PAUSE for the real answer inside me that responds to: how much do I want to invest in this process?) Perhaps you have the MOST to give in the enthusiasm phase of a project or engagement–choose carefully and simply take note of resentments/resistance clues. Mine vary from a physical response (literally feeling oogy when a meeting around the topic comes up) or an emotional one (dreading a step in the process). Also, I am compelled to remind you that it is sometimes appropriate to say no after you've already said yes or gotten into a process. If you can't do your best work, withdraw yourself. It will get more elegant and you will be able to do it earlier as you practice. Thanks for weighing in! Please check back in and let me know how it's going.

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