03 Apr
no man

The Importance of Saying No

Back in 2008, Jim Carrey starred in a very “Jim Carrey-ish” film entitled Yes Man. The premise is simple (and so very high concept studio comedy): a cynical guy challenges himself to say “yes” to everything for an entire year. It’s a delicious hook—one that presupposes the joy of positivity and accepting new experiences. Say yes to life, man! Carpe Diem!

Well, I would like to briefly discuss the opposite—the joy of the negative: the wonderful, delightful power of saying “no.”

It may sound odd, but one of my goals of 2015 is to say “no” more: no to work I don’t want to do, events I don’t want to attend, and in general, stuff I just don’t want to be part of. This is trickier than it sounds because it can feel so damn good to say “yes.” Saying yes is positive…it can please people and make them happy.

But, as I continue to learn and grown, I’m starting to factor my own personal happiness ahead of the perceived gratification of others. That might sound harsh (and more than a wee bit selfish), but as life gets busier and I get older, time has rapidly become my most valuable resource (much more so than money). I guess I look at it like this: by saying no more, I find myself with the time to do the things that I want to say “yes” to.

I’m still working on this…I still find myself doing a lot of things I don’t want to because I too quickly said yes. But, I’m slowly learning. If you too are too much of a “yes man” I’ve compiled a quick, trio of guidelines to support you on your endeavor to become better at saying no.

Don’t Respond Right Away

Most requests to do something come via e-mail. So, you know, really think about what someone is asking you to do. If after a brief period you can’t sense the joy involved in completing a certain task (and, no, I’m not just talking about money), then say no.

 It’s Okay to Say No to People You Like

Just because friends or family want you to do something, doesn’t mean you necessarily have to. That might sound obvious, but we often we feel compelled to be at something to just “be there.” Now, I’m not suggesting you miss your nephew’s bar mitzvah just because you feel like sleeping in. But, not every personal connection immediately presupposes obligation. People know you’re busy. They’ll understand.

 Companies Don’t Care About You

Okay, that may sound harsh, but in a purely analytic sense, it’s true.  This applies mainly to those who make a living doing freelance work (i.e. me). I used to feel bad about refusing work from companies because I felt like I was “letting them down” in some way. Or, worse, that by saying “no” they’d never come back to me with proposals for future work. Guess what? You’re not letting them down—most companies are pretty big entities and they can get along just fine without you. As, for the second one, well, if you’re good enough, the optimist in me wants to believe that they’ll come back. While I’m always honored to be considered for freelance work (seriously, folks don’t stop calling), sometimes I just can’t say “yes” to a particular job. When it comes between saying no or spending late, miserable nights working on a project, the former option is always much more appealing.

So, there you have it—a basic primer on why it’s important to say “no” more. And, if you’re still having trouble formulating that delightful syllable, check out this great article on Lifehacker.

Leave a Reply