The virtue of saying no

I have alsways been one of those persons who are easy to get enthusiastic and keen to try new things and to help. Too keen sometimes. But, less nowadays than before. This true epoisode was a turning point for me.

Some years ago, I had reason to think of which of my colleagues I preferred to work with in projects. After some reflection I came up with a list of names… plus the insight into why I preferred to work with them specifically: they were the ones I could count on to keep their promises. When they commited to do something, I didn’t need to check or remind. I could go about my own responsibilities and trust that they would live up to theirs and in time.

Then it struck me.

They had another characteristic in common: In addition to being the ones who lived up to their commitments, they also were the ones who most frequently said no when asked for help. Obviously, by saying no to some stuff, they cleared their capacity and calendar for the commitments they had made.

And, come to think of it, I sure prefer getting some No’s if that means I can trust the Yes’s I get. Rather that, than a cheerful “sure” followed by waiting, reminders, nagging and delays.

Having come to this insight about the behaviour of others, was a good learning point for me, but not always that easy to live up to. There are too many fun and interesting things around that you want to have a shot at. Still, I hope and belive that I’ve improved.