Yes, I said, “NO!”
About 13 years ago, I read in a UCLA study that the average 1 year old hears “NO!” about 400 times a day. After a while, it becomes white noise. They can’t hear it.
As a new mom, this petrified me. “What if she doesn’t mind when I say, ‘NO!’ and runs into the street?!” Parenting articles that I read from there on out seemed to focus on saying yes in order to say no, negotiating to avoid saying no, asking for what you want (rather than stating what you don’t want), etc. and I jumped right on that. “Stop” became our go-to word for many things, followed by the better choice in behavior.
This is all lovely until it seeps into your adult ability (and necessity) to say a big fat, “NO!” One’s life can get stuffed, packed, and jammed with commitments and activities and conscious choices that exhaust our every sense.
Fast forward 13 years and one of my mentors, Therese Kienast, tells me, “Being successful means having the privilege of saying no to some really amazing things.” Struggling in a sea of cool choices in that very moment, I had to sit with her words and the luscious silence that followed.
I climbed into what life might look like if I took on three large projects at the same time. What would I be capable of giving to each? Would I be able to give 100 percent to any? Would it be my best work? Would I be able to focus on any one of them fully? And what about my family, and my parenting?
I said a firm “no” to something really awesome that day in service of saying a full, committed “yes” to something else. I haven’t regretted it. I was inches away from outrageously overcommitting to three really cool opportunities and worrying later about how to fit them together. I look back on the chaos I would have created, how overwhelmed I would have been and I’m grateful.
Yes, I said, “NO!”
The “no” I gave her that day wasn’t a “no, not ever.” It was a “no, not now.” To me, that made all the difference. I had to also say, “no, not yet” to the launch of some great products for Julz of Life in service of some family goals that wouldn’t wait. Again, I’m grateful for NO-ing.
We are conditioned to please, conditioned to not turn down good opportunities. Consequently, we get tired, resentful, grumpy and often incapacitated by our overwhelming commitments.
An Uncommitted “Yes” Is Really a “NO!”
Another great tid bit from the same mentor — “an uncommitted ‘yes’ is really a ‘no’.” I watch for uncommitted yeses in myself as well as in others. If one truly needs help then chasing after it, having it show up late (or not at all), or having to follow up with it continuously really ends up being no assistance at all.
I’d rather be grateful for NO-ing!
Julie Ford is a certified life coach, speaker, writer, facilitator and trainer. She helps organizations support their high performers through parenting transitions. With one-on-one and group coaching, she helps her clients to define what matters most in their lives, and to realize what is and isn’t working. Collaboratively, they move through a customized plan to find more joy and less chaos in the everyday.