During a recent meeting at work, the topic came up about the power of saying no. We are a young company that believes in building up a great culture and so this topic was brought up as an idea for a speech at a future meeting. Being a people pleaser, I’m not one to typically interject with a dissonant opinion, so I wrote down “The Power of No,” in my notes and underneath it, I scribbled, “The Permission To Say Yes” to bring up if I had a chance in a later non-meeting environment.
Though I respect the decision of a well-placed no, I believe in the power of saying yes.
No is an important word. And it is a word that sometimes people should use more. Will you do this photo shoot for exposure? (photographers HATE this). The answer is no. Could you lead this committee on fixing all the potholes without raising tax dollars in our neighborhood? Um, nope. Can you make 6 dozen Christmas cookies for tomorrow’s bake sale? HELL NO. As children, we hear the word no all the time. We’re told not to touch certain things, not to speak to strangers, not to pick our noses. Saying no can be good for us. Saying no can protect us from danger. Saying no can keep the dog from eating your favorite pair of Jimmy Choos. Saying no can help us set boundaries with people.
But on the flip side, some people say no too much.
Some people use no as armor. Some people, (like me, ahem), hide behind those two little letters so that they don’t have to get uncomfortable. We say no because no makes sense. No is what is comfortable. No doesn’t require any extra effort, creativity or passion. Sometimes no is a warm, cozy, safe haven for us to wallow in the pool of mediocrity. No allows us to stay in our own lane, to fall in line with the status quo, to not rock the boat. Sometimes we say no because we are too scared to say yes.
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One of the best books I read last year was Shonda Rimes’ The Year of Yes. (If you’re a fan of any of her shows like Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal, you’ll recognize her in the voices of her characters. I highly recommend the audiobook version). For one year, Shonda committed to say yes to all the things that scared her. The things that took her out of her comfort zone, she said yes to and in that process, learned that the act of doing the thing that she feared, made her not fear it anymore. She credits saying yes to changing her life.
Sometimes saying yes gives us an open door to opportunities. Sometimes saying yes pushes you to exactly where you need to be. Sometimes saying yes leads to something unimaginably great. Sometimes saying yes leads to learning something new. Sometimes saying yes leads to failure. And that’s okay. That is the beauty of saying yes. It gives us the permission to try.
Saying no is important. It can help us survive. But giving yourself the permission to say yes can help you thrive. The real power comes in knowing when to use which.