How to Say No

How to Say No (and Sometimes Yes)

I know where I want to end up, and I only do things that may help me to get there.

There are many things I do badly, or not at all. Exercise is one of them. And cooking. And dealing with badly formulated criticism. But there’s one thing I’ve learned to do well in the last few years.

I know how to say No.

I am bombarded with requests every day. Which is awesome! I cherish all the attention people are willing to give me. But there’s only so much I can do, which means I have to make difficult choices. I’m sure you know the feeling!

I believe good decisions depend on two things:

  1. Where are you going?
  2. How will you get there?

Where are you going?

I’ve always said my purpose is to write books. I want to earn my living with the books I’m able to sell. Workshops are cool, and public speaking is great, but they are the cherries on top of the writing. I’ve noticed a clear purpose helps tremendously with all kinds of decisions I need to make.

For example, even before I started making the Management 3.0 course I knew it had to be a course what was easy to delegate to others. After all, my goal was to be a full-time writer, not a full-time trainer. This has worked out remarkably well. More than 80 licensed facilitators have signed up by now, and they get great evaluations for performing, customizing, and translating my materials for local audiences. I just have to keep on writing to supply them with great new materials. Everyone happy!

I’ve spoken with several trainers of other self-made courses who envy the licensing model of Management 3.0. I think the reason they cannot license their courses is that they never considered what is their long-term goal.

How will you get there?

I’ve always known my purpose, but I never knew exactly how to get there. Nobody does! Lots of roads are leading to Rome, and many things could help me become a dedicated writer. That’s why I develop decisions rules all the time that help me to keep all options open and increase my chances along multiple paths.

For example:

  • I don’t do in-company courses because I learn more from open events with multiple organizations in the room, which gives me more to write about. I’m not a coach or consultant, I’m a writer.
  • I don’t do webinars or webcasts because a talk for a live audience is fun and a webinar is not. My purpose is writing, not showing slides, and thus I only do presentations when I enjoy them.
  • I don’t go sightseeing on business trips because that doesn’t sell any books. Sure, I need relaxation like anyone else. But I have better ways of spending my rare free time. And my spouse comes first, friends second, strangers third.
  • Etc…

Every day someone invites me to do something, I compare the request with my many decision rules. Every rule is there to increase my options or increase my chances. If there’s no rule to give me an answer, I make a new one. And if a rule gives me the wrong answer, I change it. 🙂

That’s how I say “No”.

It’s not because I don’t like you. It’s because I know where I want to end up, and I only do things that may help me to get there.

(image: Dawn Huczek, Creative Commons 2.0)

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  • Ruud Rietveld

    Good post. Having a clear goal helps tremendously in decision-making. Sometimes you can still feel bad about a decision you (have to) make, however.
    A trick I use is to also look for the ‘yes’ behind my ‘no’. What am I effectively saying ‘yes’ to when I say ‘no’ to something? For instance in a small simple request to go out with someone I like, and I am very tired, if I say ‘no’ to the go-out-request, I can find I am saying ‘yes’ to some well-deserved rest. Which helps me to feel lots less bad about saying ‘no’. 🙂

    • jurgenappelo

      Awesome! Thanks for the suggestion.

      • Victoria Helena Thompson

        I always like your posts because they are clear to the point! This one has inspired me to think about my own long-term goals to help make decisions without feeling guilty and to see the ‘yes’ behind the ‘no’ as suggested by Ruud.

        • jurgenappelo

          Glad to read this! 🙂

  • Flavius Stef

    Sounds like a good rule for regulating variety and bringing the system Jurgen under control. Very cybernetic-esque. 🙂

    • jurgenappelo

      Yeah, bring it on! 😉

  • http://derailleurconsulting.com/ Chris R. Chapman

    Reminds me of the quote attributed to Churchill: ‘You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.’

    Not totally the same thing that you’re saying, but similar intent: Keep focused on your goals, disregard the distractions.

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