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If I say no to something you ask of me, don’t be offended. I’m simply practicing the art. And interestingly, as can be the case when I’m catching on to some self-improvement technique, I’ve had several affirmations this week about the value of shaking your head.

For example, at work I had an optional opportunity to travel to an interesting city and help with a conference being organized by people I respect and like. It was a compelling ask and also would require me to extend a week already heavy in travel and be gone into the weekend. The fall already promises to be intense and potentially energy draining. I was conflicted about what to do. In the end, I said no and felt an immediate relief (usually a sign that I made the right choice). Rather than feeling bad about saying no to that opportunity, I felt glad about saying yes to my health, well-being and home relationships.

The same week, my co-worker told me she was feeling guilty about saying no to some friends about something and we decided she wasn’t saying no to them but yes to her young daughter. And right then another co-worker said he’s learned that having a rule of saying no as the first answer tends to make space in his life to be able to say yes to  things that are of highest value.

Oddly enough, a recent guest post from Michael Bungay on Zen Habits addressed this very issue. It’s worth a read. He mentions four areas in which he is pushing himself to say no first in order to say yes to something else. They are:

  • Saying no to control to say yes to freedom
  • Saying no to popularity to say yes to friendship
  • Saying no to money to say yes to impact and
  • Saying no to plans to say yes to now (this is one I’m really learning about with a husband who’s great at this and has taught me how to slow down and appreciate the present)

In this learning for myself, I need to be mindful that when others say no to me, it could simply be a sign that they are working on life balance, something I admire and value and therefore can affirm and encourage.