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Struggle to say "No"? You are saying "no" all the time...

There are a few classic detrimental struggles which I find to be very common with individuals I coach.  Very few sessions go by without someone admitting to me that they are kept back in their careers or relationships by seemingly unsurmountable and habitual practices like distrusting people, failure to meet deadlines, being seen as either too aggressive or too meek and mild and the like.



But there is one habit which I am used to by now as being the "mother of all detriments" within peoples careers.  It is a slow poison, but eventually it destroys health, relationships, partnerships and healthy teamwork.  It  is the inability to say "No".

People with this detrimental habit have a lot in common.  Usually they are very supportive by nature.  They also have huge capacity for work.  They are trustworthy, loyal, likable and hard working.  And all of this makes them suckers for the "resisting-of-no" trap.  


At the core of the inability to say "no" you will find the lack of healthy boundaries.  It is for this reason I always recommend the brilliant book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, "Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life" to my clients.


Still, I get the best response from clients if I explain the actual truth of this detrimental habit to them. I always get puzzling stares when I respond to the "I cannot say "no" admission with "What you actually mean is that you say "No" all the time, and that is getting the most of you."


But there is one habit which I am used to by now as being the "mother of all detriments" within peoples careers.  It is a slow poison, but eventually, it destroys health, relationships, partnerships and healthy teamwork.  It is the inability to say "No".ng-of-no" trap.  .    


I will then persist:  "You are actually a master at saying "No".  You are so good with it that you do it even without knowing it."


It is then that I let them off the hook, and explain what I mean:

Saying "Yes" to something, always and inevitably means saying "No" to something else. There is always a trade-off.


Saying "Yes" to take on an extra task at work and staying late, means you just said "No" to your child waiting for you at home. Saying "Yes" to quickly jump up and help someone fix something they need fixing at their desk, means you just said "No" to be available at your desk when someone calls you there. Saying "Yes" to read through someone's presentation at home to make sure they have everything covered, means you just said "No" to relax with your spouse or partner as you always do in the evenings. Saying "Yes" to meet an unrealistic and sudden deadline because of someone else's bad planning, means you just said "No" to the sleep you desperately need. Saying "Yes" to your friend to help him with his building project at home over the weekend, means you just said "No" to your family who is desperate to spend time with you. Saying "Yes" consistently for working too hard and too long hours means you are saying "No" consistently to your health and wellness. You say "No" every single day.  You just mask it with a "Yes" for some other priority, reason or cause. But you are a professional and brilliant "No-sayer".


Saying "Yes" to take on an extra task at work and staying late, means you just said "No" to your child waiting for you at home. Saying "Yes" to quickly jump up and help someone fix something the need fixing at their desk, means you just said "No" to be available at your desk when someone calls you there.Saying "Yes" to read through someones presentation at home to make sure they have everything covered, means you just said "No" to relaxing with your spouse or partner as you always do in the evenings.Saying "Yes" to meet an unrealistic and sudden deadline because of someone else's bad planning, means you just said "No" to the sleep you desperately need. Saying "Yes" to your friend to help him with his building project at home over the weekend, means you just said "No" to your family who are desperate to spend time with you.Saying "Yes" consistently for working too hard and too long hours means you are saying "No" consistently to your health and wellness.You say "No" every single day.  You just mask it with a "Yes" for some other priority, reason or cause. But you are a professional and brilliant "No-sayer".

This realization usually stops people dead in their tracks.  They realize that it is not about an inability to say "No", but actually their fear of the possible response or rejection from others in the moment, that may result from it.  So, we would rather say "No" to those who we think will not reject us:  we say "No" to ourselves, our children, our spouses, our health and our own time.  But, eventually, we get rejected by all of those also.  And then it is too late. Next time you feel the urge to say "Yes",  knowing that it should actually be a "No", remember that you are saying "No" anyway.  Count the cost. There is always a trade-off.


"No" is a complete sentence.


For more on this and other related subjects, go check out my new book, "Launch your Brilliance"

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Pretoria, South Africa