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(7) Pearls of Life

"Focusing is about saying no" - Steve Jobs


Learn to Say No

You’ll struggle getting people to say yes to you if you can’t say no to other people. Doesn’t sound fair, does it? But you don’t necessarily have to say no to the same people you want a yes from. The point is that often what you want requires time. That’s a commodity that’s hard to come by if you can’t say no. Or maybe you need a peaceful life (don’t we all), perhaps because you’re under particular stress at the moment, and you really don’t want anything difficult or complicated dumped in your lap.

You know that expression, “If you want something done, asks someone who’s busy?” That partly works because the people who are busiest are usually the worst at saying no, so they’ll always say yes to you.

Listen carefully: You don’t want to be that person. Now don’t take this as an excuse never to do anything for anyone. That’s not what I’m saying. I just want you to do things for people for the right reasons, and not because you couldn’t bring yourself to say no to them.

It’s really important that you grasp the connection between saying no and getting what you want. I’m not pretending it’s vital in every instance, but there are lots of things that you’ll struggle to achieve if you don’t have a clear head. How are you going to organize that group holiday, or clear time for that evening class, or write the report that will wow your boss, or find time to meditate, or whatever, if you’re running around desperately trying to do all the things you promised other people just because you couldn’t say no?

 Give Them na Alternative

 People who don’t like to say no generally feel that it’s rude or unkind to turn people down when they’re asking for something. It just doesn’t feel right saying no-you feel you should try to help, not obstruct. OK, fine. So you can still help them. Just don’t do it by saying yes. That may be what they think they want, but actually it’s not. Suppose a neighbor asks you to babysit and you just don’t have the time. Do you feel you’re letting them down if you say no? But you’re not…because actually they don’t need you to babysit. They just need someone to babysit. If you can help them to a solution that doesn’t involve you, then everyone gains.

So you could tell them, “I can’t, but have you tried Julie?” or “I really can’t tonight, but I could do next Wednesday if that helps?” Suppose a colleague asks you to cover so they can take a short vacation next week. You’re too busy, but you can still help: “Not next week, no. I could cover for you after the 25th though.” Or, “I’ve got too much work, but I can sort out your orders at the same time as mine if that helps.”

You’re perfectly entitled just to say no of course. I’m only trying to help you here if you have trouble doing that. Also, if your neighbor or colleague goês away feeling that you’ve helped them-even if you haven’t actually said yes to their original request- they’re more likely to cooperate next time you need their help to get what you want.

 Be a Broken Record

Everyone else doesn’t necessarily care as much as you do that you get what you want. How much time do you spend helping other people achieve their aims? I hope you sometimes help, but your real focus is your own stuff surely? Well it’s the same for everyone else. They won’t all be as focused as you, and they may need reminding. Come to that, you may need reminding. When work is going well, the sun is shining, no big bills have come in lately, your relationship is going smoothly and there are no clouds on the horizon, it’s easy to let things ride. Suddenly you realize that months have gone by, or that you’re about to hit problems, and you still haven’t got what you want.

So keep reminding yourself, your partner, your boss, or whoever needs to know that you haven’t taken your eye off the ball. Remind your boss every few weeks that you’re anxious to find a role where you spend more time with customers. Keep asking your partner (without nagging) how he’s getting on with reducing his hours at work. Make sure your sister is on the case with the plans for that big family event, and check what she needs your help with. If you don’t do this, how will anyone (yourself included) know that you haven’t changed your plans, and that this is still important to you?

 Be Sure You’re

 SorrySome people are programmed to apologize no matter what. Just to keep the peace, I suppose. I don’t really know-it’s not one of my traits frankly. But I can see that it’s intended to be conciliatory, which should in theory be a good thing. But it’s not good to do it to excess. I know people who say “sorry” when someone walks straight into them, and take the blame for a mix-up that was clearly caused by the other person not listening, and apologize for serving up “burned” food when no one had noticed it was a bit brown on top, and say sorry for delivering a report late when the facts were changed two days before it was due. If it’s not your fault, don’t apologize. You don’t have to blame anyone else; you can express regret that things have turned out this way, you can acknowledge the mess-up, but don’t actually say sorry when you’ve done nothing wrong.

What this has to do with getting what you want, you may be wondering. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s back to that confidence thing. People are far more likely to feel confident in you, respect you, and trust you, if you come across as being reliable, confident, and trustworthy. That’s not exactly rocket science, is it? So if you keep apologizing you give the unconscious impression that you keep making mistakes. Why would your bank manager give you a loan, your boss give you a promotion, your dad lend you his car, your friend go on vacation with you, or your neighbor let you take three feet off the top of the hedge between your gardens, if you keep messing up?




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