Communication essentials: saying no

Ugh. Saying no. Something so many of wish we could do but not many of us can do.

I can imagine what a lot of your calendars look like. Running here on that night. Volunteering on this night. And doing a favor for that group, friend or association tomorrow.

It happens. Especially the longer we network and connect within our industry and our community. (And yes, I’m looking at this from a personal and professional blend because that’s the way it is now.)

I know some people have made this a New Year’s resolution. I know a lot of us don’t do so well keeping that resolution. Which is why a recent episode of the ‘What’s Essential’ podcast captured my attention. The host Greg McKeown and his guest Dorie Clark had to be speaking to me.

If you have a chance to listen to this, please do. Clark is a communication coach and strategy consultant who recently wrote a book called The Long Game. In this podcast, titled ‘How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World’, Clark and McKeown cover more than just a coaching session on saying no, including:

=Why we equate busy-ness to a status symbol.

=Work is anesthetic because we don’t want to ask ourselves the real questions like, ‘Am I doing what I really like; should I be doing this?’

=96% of execs believe in strategic planning … but 97% don’t have time for it.

=And of course, the long-term effects of saying … yes.

As you know, in these blogs I try to capture a little of what they’re covering just in case you don’t have time to listen or read. So here are a few thoughts to leave with you on the subject of yes and no.

Easy evaluation. One of the questions posed by Clark is, ‘Would I feel bad about this in a year if I didn’t do it?’ I know that one snapped me to attention – a year is a long time. Most of the time, the answer would probably be … no.

What is the total commitment? What I discovered by listening to this is I say yes without really thinking about it. And one of those things to really think about is the total commitment. For example, on the podcast they used being asked to do a webinar to illustrate this point. You say yes to delivering a webinar. It’s only an hour. But are you accounting for research, development and prep time? Follow-up? If you are and are still fine with it – great. But you owe it to yourself to think about it in those terms.

It’s not about saying YES to that one thing. It’s about saying NO to everything else. Maybe the most powerful aspect of this discussion was their point on opportunity cost. Quite simply if you are saying yes to something — you are saying no to literally everything else. You can only do one thing at a time so by saying yes … what are all the other things you could be or should be doing? Is the best possible use of that time? If you’re sure, go ahead and say yes.

No. There is a lot of power in those two letters. But so few of us wield it when it comes to maybe the most valuable resource we have – our time.