Saying, “No,” to the Wrong Things Allows You to Say, “Yes!” to Your Vision
Right after Hurricane Katrina I was working for a local nonprofit in Indy. We had evacuees from the Super Dome arriving each day, in addition to those who came to stay with relatives before or after the storm. If my memory serves, there were approximately a thousand people and Catholic Charities served several hundred of them.
They had great needs: emotional support, help navigating a new city, bus tickets, new cell phones, clothes, housing, etc. We were blessed with generous donors, including churches and their members, who gave a lot of cash. And that’s exactly what we needed: cash money.
We also had “donors” who cleaned out their closets of their Cosby sweaters and their leotards they hadn’t worn since jamming with Richard Simmons in 1982. They were even nice enough to leave it after hours outside.
In the meantime, like many other cities across the country following a disaster, we were left sorting tons (literally) of clothes. The news captured images of clothes being thrown into the dumpster because Americans couldn’t stop giving them away (and then were outraged that they weren’t being put to good use).
It took the front-line staff awhile to learn to politely say, “No,” to these clothes. We sent multiple communications out to our churches asking that no one donate any more clothes. The evacuees didn’t need other people’s clothes. They needed cash to re-establish their lives, either in Indy or try to make it back home to New Orleans, Waveland, or Biloxi.
Flex that “No” Muscle
As a culture, we do-gooders are bad at saying, “No,” especially to offers of help. And trust me, I have a lot of room for growth in this area. In the past few months I’ve had opportunities come my way where I wanted to say, “Yes,” because 1) I was flattered they asked; and 2) I wanted to be helpful.
Luckily, my “No” muscle is strong enough that it at least allows me to not say, “Yes,” before the person finishes their request.
I was meeting with a local nonprofit pro last week (VP of development at a large charity here in town). She’s successful by a couple different measures. She said that coaching helped her understand why she needed to say, “No,” more often and how to say it professionally. She’s also one of those individuals who has developed a clear sense of self.
How often are you flexing your “No” muscle? Could it use a workout?
Here are some ways to think about preparing to say, “No:”
- Have a clear sense of your priorities
- Give yourself permission to choose your priorities first
- Understand that, “No,” is not a rejection of the other person
- Say, “No,” with confidence, in the right way, and without making excuses or apologizing
- “I can’t help and I know someone who may be able to.”
- “It doesn’t fit with our mission.”
- “I’ve already chosen my priorities for the next three months and this doesn’t fit in right now.
- “This isn’t something I’m passionate about.”
Put on that leotard and let’s get ripped!