No. Only two little letters but pack a powerful punch. Learning to deliver them with grace, tact, wisdom and strategy is quite the challenge though. But No is essential to give rise to a bigger Yes. And when I say bigger Yes, I mean the big dream, the fuller view, the longer term, the core of what makes you come alive.
‘No’ is a portal to the realm of your possible.
Over the years I’ve had an undulating relationship with yes, and as a corollary, to no. When I first started as a freelancer I said yes to pretty much everything. Yes was experience, and yes came with the incredulity that people wanted to pay me for my work. That was great, for a time, and led to many an adventure, but yes also led me to stretch myself thin, not focus enough and keep putting off some of the bigger projects because I was filling them with shorter term projects. I was working lots but getting paid little- taking on jobs that did not offer enough finance, out of fear, ironically, of my own lack of finance. The fear of lack of work and fear of lack of opportunity were also forcing the default yes. I would say yes because I was afraid another offer would not come along. But there comes a time to refine the no and tackle the fear head on in order to grow and thrive.
This is a work in progress (always) but these are some of the things I have been learning along the way.
In order to say No, I needed to substitute it with my bigger yes. Having a vision, a dream, and a plan of action to get me there has always motivated me and my vision needs to be loud, clear and alluring. It is something I need to constantly revisit and keep alive and fresh (meditation, guided visualisations and Pinterest helps me!) My vision changes frequently too, evolving with my ideas, experience and skillset. But with a bigger yes in place, I feel more justified and aligned when saying no. No becomes easier and clearer, and I trust that it is creating space for a larger plan to unfold. No is fuel and fire for my own creative practice.
Over time I have also learned that there are ways to say no. Graceful ones, and ones which actually help the other person while also helping to maintain the relationship with the potential client or collaborator. So, in saying No, I also aim to ask, ‘How can I serve this person? What is their need and can I link them to a solution?
Here are a few examples of how I have learned to say No:
No, that timing does not work for me, but thank you for asking. Please keep me up to date with your progress and projects and I hope we can work together again in the future. In the meantime here is a resource which I think you will find useful….
No, I am unavailable on that date unfortunately, but here is another person who I think could help you…
I am afraid that my skills set does not match up with your needs on this particular occasion. However, I love your work and what you are offering to the world, and I would be keen to work with you on a future project- please keep me in mind.
I’ve had a look at the brief a few times, mulled over it, but don’t think I am the person for the job. I think you need someone who can _______ and here is where you might be able to find them ___________
Thank you for the opportunity to work with you. My daily fee is beyond your budget on this project. If you could stretch your budget to meet X amount, I would love to work with you. I know your funds are already tight, so if this is not possible at present, please keep me in mind for future projects where there may be more financial scope. (These are often the hardest ones to write!)
I recommend practicing saying no, and also having some templates or scripts prepared- like the ones above- so when the time comes you are not caught off guard and can adapt your response as necessary.
Saying no has also extended to finding the right people to work with. I’ve recently been approached for by a potential coaching client but knew instinctively I was not the person they needed. My gut simply said, ‘let it go’. I knew in my heart of hearts the right thing to do was to pass on their contact details to someone else, who I felt would be a better fit. While it did mean turning down the client fee, I also knew it was opening up other options for myself, and for the client. The money can be a lure, but if not exchanged with trust, openness and a sense of service, it can be a burden too. Money comes, money goes, but trust can’t be bought or sold, and in this world, I value trust more.
So that is some of the No tactics. And then there are the criteria for saying yes.
Below are some of the questions I ask myself when I am offered a piece of work.
A project may meet some of these criteria, rarely them all, but at least has to meet a few. I have turned down some photography jobs because they did not match my value set, for instance, but have taken on some work because the pay was good and the work was a mostly a match with my interests and values. It is not a fixed formula, but pausing and checking in with myself before I give an answer is time well spent.
Does it align with my values?
Do I like the people/ organisation involved?
Is the money right? Does the budget match the time and skills required?
Am I connected to the cause or issue?
Do I feel I can really contribute here?
Is it a good use of my time, and theirs?
Is it building my skillset and experience? Or can it contribute to my bigger Yes?
Does the idea of this light my fire?
How is this of service? Will it have a wider impact or benefit to others?
So here are a few questions for you now:
What is your bigger yes?
What questions do you need to ask yourself, before you say yes to a project?
And how can you say No more often to give rise and room to your bigger yes?
Spending time with these questions will be time well spent too. I can assure you. The Bigger Yes in you will thank you in the long term. You are giving it space to grow, and time for yourself to expand into it.
So yes to that. And yes to all your dreams and visions…