No is a difficult word for most adults to use, and the principal reason is because it sounds negative to us.
no: negative answer to a question; used to express denial, refusal, disagreement.
And who wants to appear to be negative? Most of us don’t really want to be negative, so even seeming to be negative to your colleagues, friends and family is a mortifying prospect. So, perhaps it’s better if you just grit your teeth, and say ‘yes’.
Saying ‘yes’ is a strategy that may have served you well in the past. You started your career by being good at saying ‘yes’, by delivering on your promises, and by building a reputation for being someone people could go to, to get things done. ‘Yes’ worked for you: it was a good ally.
‘Conscientious people will always take responsibility for the commitments that they make’
The problem is this: as you move through your career and your life, there are more and more things to say ‘yes’ to. Eventually you start to reach a point where you simply cannot manage all of them. To avoid disappointing others, you start to fail on the commitments you make to yourself: your priorities start to slip.
‘Self-control means only making commitments that you are able to honour’
If you believe that your future success is linked to saying ‘yes’ to everything, you’re in trouble. Early in your career, it may be that people respected you for being good at ‘yes’. But at some stage, this will not be enough to earn you respect. Instead, it will do little more than make you a doormat: someone people go to because they know you will say ‘yes’, without thinking.
You may fear that saying ‘no’ will alienate them. So you continue to say ‘yes’ to keep their friendship and respect. It won’t work. You may keep their friendship, but you will not maintain their respect.
Only when you learn to say ‘no’ properly can you regain people’s respect. And if you do it properly, you can maintain and enhance their friendship too. Now you will not be a doormat: instead, you will become a careful thinker who commits to the important requests and has the time to honour those commitments and to deliver on them to the highest standard. You are also someone for whom life is not cluttered by busy-busy, rush-rush meaningless activities. You have become someone of substance.
We’ve seen that the negative connotations of no are a barrier to feeling confident about using the word. So I want to introduce you to a radical concept: the idea that no can be a positive word.
1. Start by acknowledging the power of no,
….by giving it capital letters: NO
2. Now notice that NO is not a word: it is an acronym: N.O.
3. N.O. stands for Noble Objection:
….what could be more positive than something which is ‘noble’?
‘Noble Objection: declining to do something
for good reasons;
making a positive choice to say no,
and doing so respectfully.’
About the Author
1 Meet the Gopher
2 Bury the Gopher
3 The Meaning of N.O.
4 When to say ‘YES’ and when to say ‘NO’
5 How to say ‘YES’
6 The Psychology of NO
7 Say ‘NO’ for Now
8 The Yes/No Compass
9 How to say ‘NO’
Closing Thoughts Super-NO
APPENDIX Saying NO to …
Who else needs the YES/NO Book?
Also by Mike Clayton
Bring Mike Clayton into Your Organisation
An easy read, 14 Dec 2012 By bali
The yes no book is an easy read, with no complicated business terminology. Examples are used throughout the book making it easy to relate the key points to your own situation, whether it's your business or personal life. The illustrations also help to make everything very clear.
It raised questions that I hadn't even considered and made me think about, not just `yes' and `no' but a wider range of topics to help my personal development including time management. This is the sort of book I will read again and again to remind me of the theory and ensure I am always putting it into practice.
Clever, challenging and clear, 18 Dec 2012 By Mr. P. Timms "perrytee"
This was a book - like some of this ilk - that I've gone into with cautious skepticism. Will it alter years of hard-wired practice? Will it speak to me or be easily dismissed as "for someone else and I'm alright jack"?
I was therefore surprised at how much it did appeal to me and did challenge my views and have me nodding at the words I was reading on the page. Clever in that respect because it could easily have been one that sits on my bookshelf virtually un-thumbed but this book got me thinking. What I liked best was the psychology of NO - this is where I struggle. My logic is overtaken by emotionally driven responses. This chapter has already been put to work so if nothing else, I've got that underway and enjoying the shifting thoughts I am now having over NO.
I think that Mike Clayton has started something with me so I have to say hats off to the book for it's ease of consumption but it's thought provoking simplicity. Challenging therefore in a non-complex way - more challenging what I know is true of myself. Clear is the writing style. The gopher was quite refreshing as it broke up the words and I'm a visual person so I pictured those like using the OATS mnemonic.
I'd recommend this especially if you know you're busy doing things you don't think you should be. And that's a lot of us out there in work-land...
Fun, informative, challenging and practical, 17 Dec 2012 By Julian
This book is a must for anyone who has a busy business and personal life. If, like me, you find it hard to say N.O then this is for you! It challenges you to break the YES habit and to think about why you would want to do something. It's fun without being condescending or flippant and, although deceptively short is full of practical advice. Along with the website the author provides all you need to compete the exercises and regain control of your life.
Great little book, 16 Dec 2012 By J Smith
This is a thought-provoking book that you will find yourself coming back to again and again. For people who organise their lives using lists, there is useful advice on how to prioritise and determine which things can stay on and which should go. The book is supported by helpful practical resources to help you begin to refocus and become less busy yet more productive.It would be a great little book to buy for a busy friend!
Definitely more with less, 16 Dec 2012 By Sean Whyte
This is a deceptive little book. Only a centimetre thick, printed in large type, and written in plain English that is easy to follow, you could be fooled into thinking that it's a lightweight. In fact, it's chock full of practical advice on how to be more fulfilled while being more productive, accompanied by clear explanations of why we commonly take on unfulfilling, pointless tasks and how we can change that. As well as its central topic of making high-quality effective decisions (to say YES or NO), the book contains many interesting and useful nuggets on subjects such as time management, business psychology and relationship management.
There are a few minor irritations. The Gopher character is useful at the start, but it is over-used, made to stand in for or illustrate many other concepts in later chapters. Some of the same essential ideas are repeated from one chapter to another, which would make sense if readers only dipped into one or two chapters of the book, but I think that the book is short and engaging enough for most people to read it cover to cover, as I did. The author introduces a number of fascinating and powerful psychological theories, but - perhaps understandably in a book of this scope - does not fully explain them (eg. Csikszentmihalyi's flow) or state why in his view they and not competing theories are relevant (eg. transactional analysis instead of, for instance, cognitive-behavioural theory).
However, these quibbles should not be allowed to detract from what is a credible, concise and deeply practical book. If you or someone you care about has difficulty making fulfilling and productive choices in work or in life, buy yourself (or them) the Yes/No book without delay.
Yes to Yes/No, 4 Dec 2012 By N. Alcock
On the face of it a nice light read for a business flight. However beneath the cuddly artwork there is a hell of a lot packed into the book - lots of checklists and stuff to help you reflect, plan and act. The companion website provides attractive resources to save you scribbling on the text. The book goes off into all sorts of personal development areas and puts a fresh twist on some TA concepts. Good read, thought provoking and deceptively deep.
Clear, concise, useful (I think!), 21 Dec 2012 By R. Maynard
Reading the blurb on the back of the book, I thought, "yes, sounds like me" - but who wouldn't want more time to spend doing the things we would rather be doing instead of those things we think we should be doing, or even those things we think other people think we should be doing?
As someone who set up their own business 5 years ago, I am at the point where in theory I should now be able to say 'No' to work - and this book has given me a useful insight from someone else who has been there too.
I can't find any faults with the logic presented here. Working through the book, I agreed all the way - indeed at times it did feel like it was stating the obvious, but perhaps that is because the author leads the reader through a series of clear arguments to reach that point - a point that wouldn't have been anywhere near so obvious if the reader hadn't journeyed there with the author leading the way.
Reading the book has given me a framework around which to coalesce some of my own thoughts on the issues contained in the book. Obviously no book will reflect a reader's situation exactly, but the tools and exercises developed by the author seemed relevant and useful to me. A good, accessible read, then, with something for anyone who would like more time to do those things that they themselves want to be doing - which is probably all of us!
Good self-awareness in decision making, 26 Dec 2012 By DCD
Not having read this type of self-help book before, I was sceptical about how a generic approach can be applied to a personal situation/mind frame. However, I found the framework set out in early chapters quite compelling and it resonated with my current challenges around career decisions and a general need to create more time for things I value.
I read the book in a linear style (chapter by chapter) and it held a good mix of theory and practical application. I'm not a fan of the exercises requiring a blank sheet of paper and a quiet room: as a fidgety 'completer-finisher', this feels like it's loading up my to-do list...a source of stress in itself. Other 'quickie' tasks such as 'pausing to evaluate what I'm saying yes to', worked better for me as portable lessons that can be applied instantly with good results. It has also prompted me to begin to formulate what my objectives are - which will be supported by a clearer approach to saying yes/no. There are no answers here but knowing what needs fixing gives a sense of control.
Much of what the book covers appears straightforward and, therefore, resonated with how I have been approaching decisions. I found that the simplicity of generating self-awareness about yes/no behaviours was a strong benefit. For me, the references to psychology / cognitive theory weren't necessary.
As the book notes, a lot of these behaviours are strongly embedded and don't disappear overnight. The book is a good starting place for identifying situations in which the yes/no decision pops up. Once identified, it is much easier to consciously deal with the decision and the outcome. I think the value of a book like this (unlike a course I went on 9 months ago) is that you can dip back in to refresh your awareness and pick up a new technique to build on previous development.
Overall the book is well-written and I really liked little details like the large font size which gave a good sense of progress as well as lists and illustrations (although the 'onomatopoeic' gopher wore a bit thin towards the end!).
The YES/NO Book makes reference from time to time, to worksheets and templates that you can download. Well, here they are.
Whilst you can, of course, use these without reading the book (and you are very welcome to), you will get a lot more from them if you do read the book.
Here then, are the worksheets, tools and templates for you to download.
Just click to open the pdf files in your browser, or right-click to download them.
You might be interested in an interview with Lucy Walton of the Female First website.
In the interview, Lucy asked me ten questions, including:
The Yes/No Book is about how to achieve more by doing less. Most of us at some point realise that we have not been focusing on the things that matter. To please others or assuage our own guilt, we’ve ended up saying yes to doing things which are both time consuming and often counterproductive.
The Yes/No Book explains why this happens and gives you practical techniques that enable you to take control of your decisions, become less stressed, less busy and much more productive.
I have been running time management training and seminars for ten years and every now and then, someone would come up to me and ask “I’m actually very good at managing my time… but I still don’t get everything done; I’m still running around like a mad thing.”
I expanded the section about saying “no” in my training, so it seemed obvious that, after the success of my earlier book, Brilliant Time Management, I should tackle this subject and give it the whole book it deserves. That led me to The Yes/No Book. When I combined my method for saying “NO” with my ideas about your “inner Gopher”, it made a compelling story.
The Yes/No Book is for anyone who find themselves rushing through life, balancing multiple priorities, constantly busy but not really getting anywhere. It is ideal for people who want to say no but are afraid to – maybe because their inner Gopher compels them to go for this and go for that, whatever crops up.
Like many people, I first built my career and became successful by saying “yes” and delivering on my commitments. But as I experienced more and more calls on his time, I became aware that, with too many opportunities, I was in danger of failing. I knew I needed to find a way to choose which ones to follow.
Part one focuses on why people get stuck saying yes to everything and introduces the idea of taking control by asking a few very simple questions of yourself, and interrupting your knee-jerk “yes”.
Part two introduces the idea of the Noble Objection – a positive reason for saying “NO”. It discusses how to decide whether to say yes or no and, if you do decide to say yes encourages you to do it whole-heartedly; to say “YES”.
The final part looks at the psychology behind why people find it hard to say no, your choices about timing, and how to say “NO” confidently and respectfully.
There is also a great appendix giving examples of how to say “NO” in common situations like deals, family, clients, and temptations.
If you say no at the wrong time, you miss opportunities and risk giving offence. Fear of these is one reason why people are so bad at saying no when they should. But, if you say yes at the wrong time, you spend big chunks of your working day or your private life doing things that have little or no benefit to your employer, your customers or you. At the same time, you don’t have the time to do what really does matter. And if you force yourself to make that time, you end up over-worked, stressed and resentful. None of that is good!
That was the biggest “NO” of my professional life: the choice to step away from a successful career as a senior practitioner in one of the world’s largest professional services firms. I did it because the basis for progressing in the firm would have been to start delivering services I would not have enjoyed in a way I would not have believed in.
On the other hand, leaving gave me the opportunity to start my own business, develop services I enjoyed and spend a lot of time learning and researching interesting ideas that my clients could benefit from. The right NO made room for a very positive YES.
It is always when people tell me that something I have said or shown them has made a big difference to their work or their life. It has happened with individuals I have coached, with groups I have facilitated, with managers I have trained and with people who have attended my seminars. Most recently, I have started to receive emails like that from people who have read my books.
I enjoy my work and do it for the pleasure as much as to earn a living, but those sort of comments make it an absolute joy.
You rarely have to do more than examine your feelings: we tend to know immediately. You get that feeling: “I know I shouldn’t have said that; I wish I hadn’t have said it; why couldn’t I have just said no?” It’s for people who have experienced that feeling that I wrote The Yes/No Book.
I am currently scheduling seminars for 2013, developing a seminar based on The Yes/No Book, and working on two new books for 2013 – the first of which is about how we communicate with each other, looking at conversations, meetings and public speaking.
Brilliant Time Management
What the most productive people know, do and say