Friday, November 13, 2009

Inner Peace - How to Say No Without Burning the Bridge

Have you ever said "Yes" when you really wanted to say "No"? Do you often spread yourself too thin with many different projects and social obligations? Do you ever feel stressed or overwhelmed when there is not enough time in the day to get everything done?

If your answer is "Yes" to any of these questions, then you exhibit the signs of an overachiever. Many of us are great at what we do and sometimes we take on more than we can handle. Since other people expect us to be the best and we must keep up our winning stride, we have to do more, we have to do better, and we have to do it all of the time! In the end we carry on more burden than anyone else around us. Learning to say "No" can be a life saver that will lowers your stress level and brings more inner peace - before you pass out from exhaustion!

Here are few simple tips that will help you say "No" without burning the bridge.
  • Know what you want. Before you can say "No" to anything you need to say "Yes" to what you really want. It is the toughest not knowing the direction you wish to persuade. Once you know where your "Yes" is, anything else does not fall into your "Yes" will automatically be a "No". For example, if there are three meetings today and two of them might over lap, so you have to say "No" to one of them. Align yourself with your goal and see which meeting feels like a better fit into your overall direction and keep that one. Cancel the other one.

  • Be committed to your "Yes". When you are spreading yourself too thin and try to do everything for everyone, you are really not being effective. You might have noticed that sometimes you might physically be in a meeting or a gathering but your mind and your heart are somewhere else. Being half in and half out will only produce mediocre results. The key is when you are here, be here and nowhere else. Do not plan what to do in the next few hours in your head or replay what happened a few hours earlier. When you are with your "Yes", be committed to it!

  • Schedule downtime to realign. This is probably the most essential tip for gaining inner peace instantaneously. When you are running from one minute to the next without the proper planning or introspection, you will only run yourself into the ground. So schedule time to be by yourself and introspect right on your calendar during the workday. This is an essential part of your work and do not try to accomplish this when you get home. I call it strategy alignment. During this time I can figure out what needs to be done next and how to delegate to my staff.

  • Practice saying "No". Once you can be fully committed to your "Yes" and know the best strategy to move forward, it is simple to say "no thank you" to anything else that does not fall into your plan. Practice in the mirror and watch your facial expression when you say your "No". Does it look gentle and smooth or forced and awkward? When you say "No" to yourself in the mirror, how do you feel on the receiving end? If it does not look or feel right, what is the thought in your head that is making this difficult? Make peace with that thought. Also keep in mind that a "No" right now does not mean a "No" forever. So you can always get a rain check.

  • Do not feel guilty. There is nothing wrong with telling a friend you will not be at her party. It is better to say "No" up front than cancel at the last minute or show up not wanting to be there. Chances are your friends and your coworkers want to see the best you and not some beat up tired version of you. They will understand when you simply have to prioritize your life and your work and get the best out of the time you have on hand.

Just like anything else in life, the more you practice the more comfortable you will become. Saying "No" is an art not a science. Adjust your style with different people and soon you will find that you have the ability to say "Yes" to the things you really want and drop everything else that distracts you from your goal. Work effectively, work efficiently, and work smart - learn to say "No".