I can’t even count the times that I looked at my calendar, saw a blank, and filled it in by saying “yes” to a request for something I did not really want to do. I have always had a hard time saying no. I don’t like to disappoint people, and I have felt guilty at times for saying no.
Do you experience one of the most common dilemmas of independent professionals: “overload?” For those of us who depend on referrals for new business, we like to become involved in various events and activities that expose us to potential clients or referral sources. So some of us say “yes” a lot. After all, there are opportunities to volunteer, help others, network, join a board, do pro-bono work to gain “exposure” etc. Have you ever done that?
I am much better now, because I have two tools that work for me:
1. I learned to look at my empty calendar and say: “I’m sorry, I have a commitment at that time and cannot come.” The blank calendar has just become a commitment to myself. Sometimes I even write my own name in my calendar to remind me of the commitment.
2. The second tool is for those great causes that you wish you could participate in but know that you shouldn’t. William Ury wrote The Power of a Positive No just for these situations. When I learned of this process, I became much more free! I could say no and let them know how much I believe in their cause at the same time. The steps involve a Yes, No, and a Yes:
a. The first statement expresses your interest in their cause. It can be something like: “I am so proud of you for walking for the cure!”
b. The second statement affirms your own personal power and could go something like: “I won’t be walking this year.” (You do NOT need to make excuses or explain why.)
c. And the third statement affirms your relationship and could sound like: “I will be cheering for you from afar, and I will be sure to make a donation to the cause.” (Don’t say anything that is not true.)
There. Don’t you feel better now? You’ve claimed your own personal power by protecting your time and activities to do the things that you really want or need to do. After a little practice, you will be amazed at how much better you feel about yourself, and perhaps you won’t be so overloaded.