#Say NO Often



Do you find yourself saying YES when you want to say NO just to avoid a conflict? Navigating these moments with courage and grace is one of the most important skills to master In the process of becoming a true essentialist.

As hard it is to say NO, failing to do so may make you miss out on something very important.

In this podcast, I talk about why do we resist saying NO and what shifts in our thought process can help us to do so efficiently.

Saying NO firmly, resolutely and yet gracefully is the way to happiness. The right NO spoken at the right time can change the course of history.




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Awareness of Time 



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Have you ever felt tension between what you felt was right and what someone was pressurizing you to do? Have you ever felt the conflict between your internal conviction and external action? Have you ever said yes when you meant no, simply to avoid conflict or friction? Have you ever felt too scared or timid to turn down an invitation or a request from maybe your colleague, your friend, your boss, your neighbour or a family member for the fear of disappointing them? If you have, you are not alone guys. Navigating these moments with courage and grace is one of the most important skills to master in becoming an essentialist and this is one of the hardest.


I read something very beautiful on the art of saying no in a book called essentialism by Greg McKeon and this is something very important. When he says “Courage is the key to the process of elimination. Without courage, when you are trying to pursue the lessons in your life, that’s just lip service. Maybe you are invited to a dinner party, or  a colleagues’ birthday party, that’s only skin dip. Anyone can talk about the importance of focusing on the things that matter most and many people do that. But, to people who dare to live this art of saying no is really rare. The thing is, we all have good reasons to fear saying no. We worry about missing a great opportunity. We are maybe scared of rocking the boats, spoiling your relationships, stirring things up or burning bridges. We cannot bear the thought of disappointing someone we respect. None of this makes us a bad person. It’s a natural part of being human.

Yet, as hard as it can be to say no to someone, failing to do so can make you miss out on something far more important.

So, why is it so hard in the moment that you cannot dare to choose what is important over what is not important? One simple answer is that we are really not clear on what it is that is essential and important. When this happens, we become defenceless.

On the other hand, when we have strong internal clarity it is almost as if we have a force field protecting us from all the non-important things coming at us from all the directions. In virtually every instance when you have clarity about what is important, that clarity fills you with the strength to say no to all things that are non-important. And the second reason why it is hard to choose what is important in your life at the moment is as simple as an innate fear of social awkwardness I can relate to because I was really plagued with this thing many years ago.


The fact is, we as humans are wired to wanting to get along with others. After all, thousands of years ago, when we lived in tribes of hunter gatherers, our survival actually depended upon groups. And while conforming to what people in a group expected of us, what psychologists call this normal conformity.

But this, guys, is no longer a matter of life and death, the desire is still so much in grained in us. That is why, if it’s an old friend who invites you to a dinner or a boss who clearly asks you an important high profile project or a neighbour who helps you with baking a school cake, say, the very thought of saying no literally brings us physical discomfort. We start feeling guilty. We don’t want to let someone down. We are worried about damaging the relationship or stirring it up. Thing is, these emotions really muddle it up.

The distract you from the reality of the fact that either we can say no or we regret it a few minutes later. Or you say yes and regret it for days and weeks and months and years together. The only way out of this trap is to learn to say no. Firmly resolutely and gracefully. Because when we do, we find that not only our fears of disappointing or angering others were saturated, but people actually respect us more than what we have done.

It’s almost a universal truth that people respect and admire those with courage and conviction to say no. People love to be with these kinds of people. So, all the people who say yes because of feelings of social awkwardness and pressure say yes automatically, without thinking and they do this in the pursuit of the rush one gets from having pleased someone.


Just close your eyes and think about this for a moment, how good you feel after saying yes, just because you have managed to please someone else. But guys we ought to know that after the rush comes the pang of regret. We know that soon we feel bullied or resentful both at the other person and our own selves too. Maybe eventually we’ll wake up to the unpleasant reality that something more important must now be sacrificed to accommodate this new commitment. Of course, the point is not to say no to all the requests that come your way. The point is to say no to all the non-important things so that you can say yes to all the things that really matter to you. It is to say no frequently and gracefully to everything but what is truly vital to you. So how do you learn to say no gracefully? Some of the pointers here which could be helpful are:

When someone asks you to do something, you can confuse your respect or your relationship with them. Sometimes, they seem so interconnected, we forget that denying the request is not the same as denying the person, you’re not doing the same simultaneously. So only once when you separate the decision from the relationship only then can you make a clear decision and only then can you separately find the courage and compassion to communicate to that person.

The second one is when you choose “No” more often than they say no. That means, there maybe a time when the most graceful way to say no is to simply say a blunt no. Whether it is “I’m flattered that you thought of me.” Or “I’m afraid I don’t think I have the bandwidth.” Or something like “I would very much like to but I’m over committed”, there are a variety of ways of refusing someone clearly and politely without actually saying the word no.

And that takes your burden of your shoulders by a long one. One more thing is that the more you are giving up when you say yes to someone, the easier it for you to say no. If you have no clear sense of the opportunity cost. If you don’t know what is at stake, if you don’t know what you are losing, the value of what you are giving up, then it is easy to fall into the non-essential trap of telling ourselves that we can get it all done.


But the fact is, we cannot. A graceful no grows out of a clear and unstated calculation of a trade off and that is so important.

So, calculate what is at risk. One more thing is when you say no, there is usually a short term impact on your relationship. Yes! You will have that! After all, when someone asks for something and does not get it, his or her immediate reaction maybe disappointment or annoyance or even anger. The down-side is very clear here. But the potential upside is less obvious: when the initial anger, or annoyance or disappointment really wears off the respect kicks in. When you push back effectively, it shows people that our time is highly valuable. It distinguishes the professional from the immature.

So we need to accept somewhere that we cannot be popular with everyone all the time. And that’s an important realization. Yes, of course, saying no respectfully, reasonably and gracefully can come at a short term social costs to you, and it will.

But part of focusing on what’s really important is realizing that respect is far more valuable than popularity in the long run. So, anyone who has ever been at the receiving end of the situation knows that, when you say clearly, “I’m going to pass on this.” It is far better than getting back to someone or stringing them along with some non-committal answer like “I will try to make it work” or “I might be able to” when you know that you can’t.


Being vague is not the same thing as being graceful and when you delay the eventual no, it’ll only make it that much harder and the recipient will only be that much resentful. So try to make your no as graceful a you can. Understand the opportunity cost. And always remember this guys, it is powerful: The right no said at the right time can change the course of history.

Mar 11, 2020      #The Malkan Show


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