The Most Valuable Word

Successful lives are efficient.  One efficiency maker involves how you deal with calls on your important resources – time and money.

Every request for your resources offers you a benefit, like a charity that promotes world wellness or a child who will live better because of your largess.  At the same time these requests reduce your capital or the time you have a available.

no-300x225It becomes important to know how to address these requests because there are many of them in the course of a year.  There is a process:

  1. Automatic responses.  Could be yes or no.  Usually related to requests from people you wish to bless and the request falls within some pre-described parameter.  A child wants an advance on his allowance.  An employee wants an hour off to go to the dentist.  A spouse wants you to attend a family gathering.  Know why you have the particular parameters you have and review them once in a while.
  2. Non-automatic responses.  Something outside the pre-described limits or something that has never been considered before.  Some of these are money.  Usually a charity or maybe a friend with a start-up or a family member in trouble.  These can be resolved but only with some thought.  When you are finished thinking about it you will need to understand what will happen if you say yes and also what will happen if you say no.  You must examine both sides to be effective.  Be especially careful with requests that have immediate payoff and long term costs.  The distant elephant problem.  It is easy to say yes today to being chairman of the fundraising for the new hospital because the real work is months away.
  3. The third area is the real killer.  Maybe.  Not now, but I will reconsider later.  Slow no, and slow yes are a burden on you and on the supplicant.  People like problems resolved, not festering.  Be a little decisive.  If you are using this often, you may have a problem with assertiveness.  Work on that.  Learn to say no without feeling you need to offer an explanation.
  4. Finally, a thought from one of my favourite business authors, Harvey MacKay.

“No one has ever gone broke by saying “No” too often.”

The reason “No” matters relates to risk.

If you say no, it is easy enough to reverse your position later if you decide that reversing it makes sense.  Yes tends to be forever.  Yeses reduce resources so if you over-yes the world, you will spread yourself too thin and that benefits no one.  Say yes to nothing unless you intend to give it your best shot and you have only a few best shots.

No is the most useful word because it keeps you focused on things you care about.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.


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