leadership incorporated blog

March 22, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Do you have a Generous No?

You know those people who start with No? Perhaps you’re one of them. I know I used to be. We say no because we’re overwhelmed or afraid we will be. We say no because we expect to be taken advantage of. We say no because it’s not the way we’ve always done it, because it’s unfamiliar. We say no because we’re not sure. We say no because we’re afraid of what yes will mean.

This all makes sense, doesn’t it? We don’t need to be any busier. We don’t need to lose anything more. We don’t need to give up on what works.

BUT when we start with no, we close off other possibilities.

We are living in a time in which more and more of us are starting from NO and we desperately need new possibilities.

Have you not returned phone calls, not knowing what opportunities might be presented? Have you said no to things that might help because you think you can’t afford them, and you haven’t even found out what they entail, what they cost, or what they might bring? Have you said no passively, just by not doing a thing?

How can opportunity find you when you are in a state of No?

Right about now, you may be thinking something like, “that’s great in theory, Sharon, but I don’t have the bandwidth to find out.”

What I want to offer to you today is the idea that there are two kinds of No. The negative, passive no that indiscriminately blocks the new and unfamiliar — amazing opportunities included — and the Generous No which, used strategically and positively, is essential to create the space for opportunity to walk up and kiss you on the lips.

If you’re like most people, there are probably lots of things you’re saying yes to and you don’t mean it. In this category fall: projects that aren’t aligned with your big picture goals, work that is not being fairly compensated, favors you don’t want to do, time spent on people who don’t take responsibility for themselves.

These enormous time drains keep you too busy to take on projects that are aligned, work that is fairly compensated, favors you do want to do and time spent on people who will make good use of it and create mutually beneficial outcomes.

Pull out your Generous No and create the space for the possibilities you need. Here’s how:

  1. The Generous No is about giving your truth. It is never angry, resentful or judgmental. If you’re angry that someone is asking you to do something that is not good for you, you are displacing that anger on the other person. Just because they ask doesn’t mean you have to say yes, The only person responsible for your choices is you.
  2. The Generous No is clear and specific. You give this only when you have all the information you need to be clear that this situation is a definite No for you.
  3. The Generous No begins with understanding. It only takes a moment to appreciate that the person(s) asking you for favors, work, time, etc. are asking because they appreciate you on some level. They value what you have to offer. They are stuck themselves and don’t know how to get out of it. Nothin’ to be angry about here.
  4. The Generous No always begins with Thank you. Thank you for asking. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for your trust in me. Thank you for the idea. It’s amazing how people can receive your no when it begins with appreciation.
  5. The next thought is…”and No. I’m going to respectfully decline.” You can put it in your own words.
  6. The Generous No does NOT include: justifications, rationalizations, explanations. These send a mixed message. Just give  your Thank you and your No. With kindness.
  7. You are not responsible for how They feel about it. All you can do is tell Them respectfully. You may be surprised by how well They take when your no is delivered generously.
  8. Your Generous No gives others the opportunity to find a better solution, to discover that they can meet their own needs, or to find resources that will serve them even better.

Try it out. If you’re still unsure, practice on little things where the stakes aren’t great. OR… if there’s something you really NEED to say no to and you haven’t, jump in. This is a great and freeing tool that will help you create the space you need for the opportunities you need now.

Next week, we’ll talk about Yes.

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