No. No. No. It sounds rude, does it? Why? Simply because we have been raised to a belief system that considers saying No as rude, untrustworthy and unkind. We have been programmed since childhood to say Yes – even when we want to say no, just so we do not upset others. As a coach, I come across a number of my clients who would never say no. And, as a result they are there for everyone – the family, kids, spouse, neighbours, friends, but never for themselves. And with what result? Frustration, irritation, anger detachment and controlling behaviour.
Our ability to say No to things is very important.
let me share from an example from my own personal life. It was in 2000s and we were living in India. With two kids, I had just started my health journey. I had enrolled in a gym and would train in a group in the morning. I had perfected the timetable to ensure my routine does not come in between the time-table of others. And then my in-laws visited us. Naturally they expected me to be there for them when they have breakfast (which was the time for my gym). I did not want to miss my gym and hence with a lot of courage I said no. Everyday before I left, I ensured that their breakfast is ready. It was perhaps the first time I said NO to my in-laws. By doing so, I believe, I saved a lot of frustration (for not being to attend the gym) and ill-will to them. I’m glad they understood.
We are not super-humans. Each has got the same 24 hours in a day, and have a never-ending list of things to do. It is important to prioritise to ensure results. There are times when somethings take precedence over others. At that time, you need to say no to all other non-priority things. When I was studying for my Life Coach certification or for my Precision Nutrition certification, I would religiously say no to invites for coffee or for a social gathering. I even said no to all the phone calls to me in the evening. When a friend called, I explained and politely asked them to leave me for the next couple of weeks. Most understood and respected it; others are no longer my friends and I thank them.
As a coach I am very careful on the type of clients who I work with. Sometimes I do get very tempting offers – like the one where a potential client wanted me to watch her follow an exercise routine from a DVD and make corrections, if required. I did not believe in that school of fitness and I thought it would not give her the results she’s seeking. She was willing to pay me more than my usual charges. I was tempted, but then I decided to say no and save myself a lot of frustration and bitterness.
I am working on a big project and that is extremely demanding. I just can’t leave everything (oh how I wish!) and work on this. I need to balance it with my other commitments and responsibilities towards my family and my clients. So here’s how I prioritise: my family, my clients, my project and then everything else.
“People are effective because they say ‘no,’ because they say, ‘this isn’t for me’.” —Peter Drucker
The other thing which I have learned with time is asking for help. You need to understand what you are good at and how others can help you. In my work I need people who can edit my writing, who can help me with the technical stuff, advertising etc. True I can do it all. But I prefer not to. I’d rather focus on my core skill and draw upon the strengths of others who have those as their core skills.
You may be an excellent manager – but that does not make you a well qualified health expert too. I come across a number of people who, after reading a few books and articles, think they can get back in shape, or can improve their fitness through the newly acquired knowledge. Or through an app. My sincere suggestion to them is to ask for help from those who have spent their whole life in this. Hire good coaches or fitness professionals who can help you understand the root cause for your issues and would work with you to remove it completely. Understand your limits – sometimes, it helps to say NO to yourself too!
Saying no is not as easy as it is writing this blog. It is not a flippant decision. But believe me, it is infectious. If makes you feel good; its makes you feel in command of your life. And when you are feeling positive, it also affects others around you. True, you might offend some people. They may think you have changed. But that comes with the package. And honestly, if you are saying No for genuine reason, they would eventually understand and respect you. Those who would not, are they really your friends, or relatives or well-wishers?
As a life coach, I can suggest you some techniques too. Try to do some push and pull exercises at the gym. Or if you don’t go to a gym, try pushing something heavy away from you while firmly saying No. Our inability to say No is deeply related to our thyroid, neck and shoulder. People who can’t say no often have issues in these body parts. Ease them, push some heavy object while thinking about those to whom you want to say know.