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Success tip: Learn to say "No"

5 May 2013

Earlier today I gave my ninth "Thought for the week" on BBC Radio Manchester.

Over the last few weeks I have been tackling my backlog of undone tasks, and realised how many of the tasks that I had failed to complete were ones that I should never have taken on, and had no real intention of doing. That gave me the thought I wanted to share.

Thought for the week

We all like to hear the word “Yes.”  Salesmen read books with titles like “Getting to Yes.” Some of us can remember the advertising campaign by “The bank that likes to say yes.”

We all like people who say “Yes.” We call them positive. Meanwhile, people who say “No” are called negative. There is a slightly old fashioned word for such people. We call them “Naysayers.”

However saying “No” can be really helpful. It stops you taking on jobs that you really don’t want to do. Those things become a drag. Often you never get round to them, or you deliver them late and badly.

A clear “No” even helps the person who asked you to do the job. It saves them from your half-hearted failure to do it properly. It means they have to find someone else who will do it with enthusiasm.

That is one reason why countries such as America and Australia are successful. Experience has taught me that that Americans and Australians give you a quick and straight “No”. “They don’t beat about the bush”, especially Australians. There are other countries, which I won’t name, where you can never get a straight answer out of people.

Saying “No” loud and clear is even more important inside families. When I was 16, my mother asked me if I wanted to get engaged to a relative in Pakistan. She explained that there was no rush to get married until I finished school and university, but she did want me to get engaged. I didn’t want to, for many reasons.

If I had given a half-hearted answer, I would have been stringing along my parents and the girl’s family. That would have been unfair to both. As it was, I gave my mother the firmest possible “No.” I still had to do it three or four times, but eventually she got the message.

Every day, people make themselves unhappy because they say “Yes” when they really want to say “No.” The answer is very simple. Learn to say “No” politely but very, very clearly so the other person really hears it.


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