True eNinjas never stop learning, practicing, and adapting as they dance on the path towards their desired vital life.
This final e-session highlights our power to say “No” and to say “Yes!”
I’m nobody, without you…. Buddy!
It’s the happy moments along the way
That in the end
Make it…ok… Five for Fighting
As many of you already know, I count myself “lucky to be alive.” I am not so sure I would be alive, if it were not for my resources. Yes insurance, good doctors, but I am talking about the family we choose for ourselves, those we hold close and closer. Knowing who your friends are is a valuable eNinja talent. This talent comes, not from self-sufficiency but rather through our vulnerability. Willing to be vulnerable is an asset, not a liability. We have been told that asking for help is difficult. But what if it were not so? You know by now that your mind makes stuff up, right? It does : )
How will you even know the strength or depth of your relationships without risking being held naked in your loved ones hands?
Both as a psychologist and Executive Coach, I have observed that the clients that most needed help worked hard to mask their vulnerabilities. Chronic pain, closed head injury, any pain that is not readily observable, is easy to hide. That mask prevented the very thing that was needed for their adaptation and healing. One way to know if your loved ones care about you and your well-being is when you can be honest and honestly say,
“No!” Or “Yes!”
We begin our final eNinja session with a formidable article address the Power of No, by Judith Sills.
Following right behind is a piece by Todd Smith. Todd challenges us to be authentic in our choice to say Yes.
The Power of No
Wielded wisely, No is an instrument of integrity and a shield against exploitation. It often takes courage to say. It is hard to receive. But setting limits sets us free. (excerpt from By Judith Sills Ph.D., published November 5, 2013 . Please see the full article in Resources.)
There comes a moment when you say “Don’t call me,” and you finally mean it; when you return the charming gift because you forced yourself to acknowledge its invisible strings; when you turn down the friend’s request for a helping hand, the colleague’s plea for immediate advice, even the teenage son’s expectation that dinner will appear before him—all because you have goals of your own from which you refuse to be deflected. Whether trivial or tormenting, each of these moments is an exercise in that poorly understood power, namely, the power of No.
There’s a lot of talk, and a lot to be said, for the power of Yes. Yes supports risk-taking, courage, and an open-hearted approach to life whose grace cannot be minimized. But No—a metal grate that slams shut the window between one’s self and the influence of others—is rarely celebrated. It’s a hidden power because it is both easily misunderstood and difficult to engage. It’s likely that we are unaware of the surge of strength we draw from No because, in part, it is easily confused with negativity. Either can involve a turning away, a shake of the head, or a firm refusal. But they are distinctly different psychological states.
Negativity is a chronic attitude, a pair of emotional glasses through which some people get a cloudy view of the world. Negativity expresses itself in a whining perfectionism, a petulant discontent, or risk-averse naysaying. It’s an energy sapper. Negative people may douse the enthusiasm of others, but rarely inspire them to action. Negativity certainly ensures that you will not be pleased. You will also not be powerful.
Where negativity is an ongoing attitude, No is a moment of clear choice. It announces, however indirectly, something affirmative about you. “I will not sign”—because that is not my truth. “I will not join your committee, help with your kids, review your project”—because I am committed to some important project of my own. “Count me out”—because I’m not comfortable, not in agreement, not on the bandwagon. “No, thank you”—because you might feel hurt if I turn down your invitation, but my needs take priority.
The No that is an affirmation of self implicitly acknowledges personal responsibility. It says that while each of us interacts with others, and loves, respects, and values those relationships, we do not and cannot allow ourselves always to be influenced by them. The strength we draw from saying No is that it underscores this hard truth of maturity: The buck stops here.
No is both the tool and the barrier by which we establish and maintain the distinct perimeter of the self. No says, “This is who I am; this is what I value; this is what I will and will not do; this is how I will choose to act.” We love others, give to others, cooperate with others, and please others, but we are, always and at the core, distinct and separate selves. We need No to carve and support that space.
No recognizes that we are the agents of our own limits. For most of us, this self-in-charge-and-wholly-responsible is a powerful, lonely, and very adult awareness. We approach it two steps forward and one giant retreat—giving in to the beloved, to the bully, to our own urges for another drink or an unnecessary purchase. The closer we get to manning the barricade of self-set limits, the stronger we are. That strength requires the power of No.
No has two faces: the one we turn toward ourselves and the one that creates boundaries between ourselves and others. The struggle to strengthen our internal No, the one we address to our own self-destructive impulses, is the struggle with which we are most familiar. That No controls our vent of rage on the road and our urge for the cigarette. We call that No “self-discipline.”
The No we direct toward ourselves comes from an internal self-governor whose job is to contain our urges and manage our priorities within an iron fist of reason. All our lives we may work on refining that self-governor, tweaking it, building it, shoring it up. The huge rewards of our governor’s developing ability to say No—not too rigidly, but often enough and wisely, too—are productivity and peace of mind. The power of No is in that payoff.
The No we are able to say to others also evolves through life, beginning with the primitive Nos of our childhood. Anyone who has ever tried to put a 2-year-old into a car seat has real-life evidence. As the 2-year-old begins to differentiate himself—his will, his wishes—from those of Mom, he hurls one loud, endless cry: NOOOOOOOO. No, I won’t put on those socks, won’t eat that mush, won’t leave the park! That primordial, powerful No is the original assertion of the self against the other. For the rest of our days we are challenged to find the proper, effective way to draw that line.
Line in the Sand. How much No is too much? Who turns down a needy friend to tend one’s own garden? Where is the line between self actualized and selfish? Who refuses to lend support to the modest effort of a group of friends? What is the boundary between important principles and stubborn oppositionalism?
When it keeps you true to your principles and values. It’s a beautiful thing—emotionally, spiritually, and even professionally—to be generous, to be supportive. But, as sociologists Roger Mayer, James Davis, and F. David Schoorman point out in their classic studies of organizations, integrity is as essential as benevolence in establishing interpersonal trust. It is a requirement for effectiveness.
Jack, for example, has always cherished his role as the go-to guy for his buddies. “Jack has your back” has been his proud mantra since high school. So when a close, married friend began an affair, Jack maintained a discreet silence. However, when that close friend asked Jack for the loan of his vacation home as a convenient site for the clandestine relationship, Jack wrestled with his conscience. He wanted to continue to be seen as a great guy, but he found himself uncomfortable being part of a deception, however secondhand. In the end, he said just that, as he turned his friend down.
Jack’s No dinged the friendship a bit and violated an unspoken male code, at least among Jack’s peers. Still, if being liked by others is often a by-product of saying Yes, liking yourself sometimes comes only from saying No.
When it protects you from cheerful exploitation by others. It’s remarkable how much some people will ask of you, even demand from you, things for which you yourself wouldn’t dream of asking. Protect yourself best from the many who feel entitled to ask by being strong enough to say a firm, clear, calm No.
Take a classic school and office scenario: A happy, popular, slacker colleague asks again to borrow his worker bee teammate’s careful notes. Mr. Worker Bee resents being used, but can’t think of a good reason to refuse. So he acquiesces. Gets asked again. Resents more. Can’t think of a good reason to say No, so he gives in. And so the cycle goes.
Finally, paying attention to his own feeling of being taken advantage of—instead of focusing on finding a reason acceptable to the cheerful exploiter—Worker Bee turns Mr. Popular down. Scraping up his backbone, Mr. Worker Bee simply says, “No, I’m not comfortable with that.”
His No earns him a chilly reception in the company cafeteria for a week or two. It isn’t a pleasant time, but it passes. In its wake, Mr. Worker Bee will find a new safety. No is a necessary life shield against the charming users who sniff out softies. It turns out nice guys can say No.
Finding Your Voice. OK, No costs. Your payoff in integrity and autonomy, however, is huge. The choice on the table is clear: Strengthen your ability to say No while lowering its cost to your relationships. Several strategies can help you achieve that balance.
Replace your automatic Yes with “I’ll think about it.” If you haven’t used this technique much, you will be awed by the results. “I’ll think about it” puts you in control, softens the ground for No, suggests you are actually weighing important factors, and, most important, allows you the opportunity to think things through. A No that follows thoughtful decision making is a more grounded fence than a No that is fueled by emotional impulse.
Soften your language. Try “I’m not comfortable with that.” “I’d prefer not.” “I’d rather…” “Let’s agree to disagree here.” Or “That’s a good/nice/interesting plan, but I won’t be able to…” This last is a variant of the Oreo cookie communication strategy, in which you say something positive (“You are such a warm and charming person”), sandwich in the filling of a tactful No (“I don’t think you and I have a romantic future”), and then end with another cookie (“I have so enjoyed the time we’ve spent together; you really make me laugh).
Make no mistake. You are still delivering a clear and powerful No, and the other person well understands that. This No, sweeter and softer, may go down better.
Contain your feelings. No is best deployed pleasantly with an air of Zen calm. (Tricky, because you are likely feeling very far from it.) Outward calm helps quiet your inner turmoil. What’s more, it will reduce the negative impact of your No on the brain of your audience. The jolt that No delivers is big enough without a tsunami of anger and invective.
Refer to your commitment to others. Say No without appearing selfish or uncaring by referencing your conflicting obligations to other people. “I’d love to help, but I have already agreed to help my mother/colleague/student then, and I can’t let him/her down.”
Realize you represent others. Wharton’s Adam Grant suggests that you are likely to negotiate more assertively if you recognize, or even imagine, that you are negotiating a salary on behalf of your family or negotiating a sale on behalf of your company. When it’s not just your own interest at stake, you may find it easier to say No to a lowball offer.
Rehearse. Ongoing situations—a demanding boss who keeps piling on the work, a needy family member who never limits her requests, a mate who badgers until you cave—can benefit from your thoughtful, private rehearsal.
You may design one clear, respectful No and keep repeating it no matter what comes your way. (“I cannot take on another project, Sir, because my plate is too full.” “I cannot take on another project, Sir, because my plate is too full.”) Repeat politely until the boss finally hears you.
and yet…..there is….YES…..
Is Your Word Really Your Bond? by Todd Smith
Why Your Word Matters
In short, honoring your word plays a powerful role in how you are viewed by others. In the longer-term, it also plays a large part in how you view yourself. And, quite frankly, it dictates whether you are a person who is respected and accepted or disrespected and scorned.
It’s ironic that although nearly everyone will admit to valuing the importance of keeping your word, fewer and fewer people actually do it. As a result, when I see people who consistently live up to their commitments, my respect for them soars.
While honoring your word does include big things like marriage and business agreements, it also includes the little things you say you will do—such as calling when you said you would, remembering to let your neighbor’s pet in as you promised, and getting the report turned in on time.
Just as there are benefits to doing what you say you will, there are repercussions when you don’t. When we allow ourselves to back out of our commitments, it usually results in guilt and time wasted in our attempt to avoid those we’ve let down. I’ve learned it takes more time and emotional energy to circumvent or repair a damaged relationship when we’ve shirked a commitment than it does to keep it!
Keep Your Commitments. Undoubtedly there have been and will continue to be times when you agree to do something that you later regret. However, once you have agreed to do something, don’t back out or procrastinate. Don’t hope the other party will forget or wait for them to remind you. When you have given your word that you will do something, you must do it and do it when it is expected.
After you have fulfilled your obligation (however painful), learn from the experience. Why was it so hard to follow through? Was it a matter of time, or were you ill-equipped in the first place? Whatever the reason, figure it out and know that it should factor into the next time you are asked to do something similar.
Not only is living up to your commitments vital in building the trust and respect of others, but it is critical in building your own self-respect. Whether you realize it or not, when you fall back on your promises, it erodes your self-image and self-esteem. Think of the last commitment you failed to fulfill? How did this experience make you feel about yourself?
Think Before You Commit. Becoming a person whose word can be trusted and relied upon boils down to a few basic things.
1.Think before you commit. With very few exceptions, you don’t have to immediately say yes or no to a request. Take an hour, an evening, or a day to think it through. Consider all that is involved and decide whether or not it’s something you are willing to commit your time and energy to. If not, politely decline.
2 Once you have given your word, don’t give yourself the option to back out. I have asked myself hundreds of times, “What was I thinking when I made that commitment?” When this happens, I muster everything I have to uphold my end of the bargain. I do that because I feel so strongly that honoring my word is essential to who I am. It’s one of my core values. As a result, I am very careful with the commitments I make.
Keeping your word is one of the most effective ways to earn the respect of others and build a solid reputation, both personally and professionally.
Thanks Judith and Todd. You are officially honorary eNinjas!
Let me know your thoughts on each of these articles. Can you give me examples from your life, your love, or your work?