How to say ‘NO’ firmly, resolutely and yet gracefully

Greg McKeown known for his work on Essentialism: the disciplined Pursuit of less. In this book, he introduces various concepts but more importantly indulges the readers with a statement – ‘How to say “NO” gracefully. This weeks blog post, I will reflect on the key messages from the book.

Sunk Cost Bias (SCB)

SCB introduces the tendency to continuing to invest time, energy and money in a loss proposition for something that can’t be recouped. The basic need to invest more and more, makes us difficult to let go. So how do we overcome it…

How to avoid SCB?

  1. Develop and remember your main objective, what and why you want to achieve it.
  2. Keep track of your investment whether it be time, money or energy and be ready to cut your losses when the numbers don’t look good.
  3. Attain your facts and just don’t go by hearsay.
  4. Let go of personal attachment.

Essentialist VS non-essentialist.

Which one are you?

So, who is an essentialist? – An essentialist is any individual with a deep clarity that provides an unusual courage of conviction and sticks to his word of saying ‘NO’. For him/her, only few things are important, and almost everything is background noise. It is important to recognise and more importantly understand that saying ‘No’ isn’t all that bad, our fears of disappointing others were exaggerated and that people respects us more if we are up front. I believe the advantage to be an essentialist when we push back effectively shows people that our time is of value. It distinguishes a professional from the amateur.

A non- essentialist is an individual that agrees or says ‘Yes’ because of feeling social awkwardness and pressure. They soon feel the void and resentful for wasting their time on something they don’t want to do only because they said ‘yes’ to everything.

How would you deliver the graceful ‘No’?

  • Separate the decision from the relationship
  • An essentialist chooses a ‘No’, rather than saying a ‘No’. Hence, I have listed few examples below:
  1. Count to 3 “in your head” and state your response.
  2. Let me check my calendar and get back to you.
  3. Using email bounce backs – this is pretty useful if you’re on a creative break and want to get away from the social media.
    • Dear Friends, I’m currently working on this new book. Which has put burdens on my time. Unfortunately, I am unable to respond in a manner that I would like. For this, I would apologise.
  4. This one’s for you worker bees:
    • Yes, I am happy to make this the priority, but which of these other projects should I deprioritise in order to pay attention to this new project.
    • I want to do a great job but given my commitments I wouldn’t be able to do a job that I was proud of if took this on.

As a speaker once said ‘treat your time like its money’ so be selective in your decisions and focus on more important ventures. If you feel this resonates with you, you should definitely read Essentialism: the pursuit of less. A simple book that could change your life.

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I am a writer and a graduate engineer working in Leicester, UK.

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