I’ve been a community and church volunteer for most of my adult life. It’s taken me this long to learn the best advice for being trusted and trustworthy. “No,” and “Yes,” are complete sentences.
No, is a complete sentence. Too often we use the excuse method of telling people we don’t want do something. “Oh, I don’t have time,” is a favorite. Really? You don’t have time? What about the person making the request who is already doing more than his or her share? Is it possible the elasticity of time allows that person to do what they’re doing times five? Uh, “No.”
Or, this one: “Well I can’t do it now but check with me next week.” Delay tactics don’t get the job done. Giving the person asking for help the hope you will be more ready at a later time is misleading.
This is a particularly irritating one: “Why don’t you ask Sue (or Joe or Jan or Stan), she (he) is so much more qualified.” This is the passing-the-buck method of saying no, something I’m guilty of from time to time. Hey, I’m just trying to be helpful! In truth, sometimes I don’t know how to say, “No.” How about you?
Then there is the other aspect of, “No, is a complete sentence.” When you want to say “no,” be very clear. Not maybe, not later, not now, not I’d rather you didn’t, but, “No.”
Years ago I had a staff member who was a wonderful photographer, but that was not the job she was hired to do. She was hired as a page editor. We already had a photographer. At that time in my life I thought being considerate in my choice of words would make me likable. In truth it left the impression I could be manipulated. The final straw with this staff member was on a day when the newsroom was on deadline and we had a breaking story. The assigned reporter/photographer did what he was hired to do and headed out. The page editor turned to me and asked if she could make a run out to the site and take photos. I said, “I’d rather you didn’t.” She grabbed her camera and went anyway. I won’t go into detail, but by the end of the day she was no longer on staff. The truth is I left her some leeway about how to interpret what I said, and she used it. It wasn’t the first time. I learned the hard way that when I meant “No,” I should say it.
Yes, is also a complete sentence. Please don’t say it if you don’t mean it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me “yes,” and let me down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “yes,” and let other people down.
Yes, isn’t maybe, or later, or when I feel like it. It means you can be depended on to follow through. It means you are a person of integrity who stands by your word. It means when you run into a snag and can’t complete the task you’ve agreed to do, you let the person depending on you know as soon as possible. It means that if you are participating in a group effort, you do your part to the best of your ability, even when you don’t get the credit for the group’s success. It means you understand saying “Yes,” means you’ve entered into a verbal contract, an agreement to come up with results, not excuses.
Before you do say yes or no, ask a few questions.
- Do you have someone else in mind for this task?
- When did you want this done?
- Who else is working on it?
- Can I get back to you after I check my schedule? (And then give a specific time when you will get back to them.)
- How long do you think this will take?
Depending on the request there are other questions you might want to ask. Your goal is to have assurance that your commitment – short or long – is one you’re able and ready to take on, or not, as the case may be.
It all comes down to integrity, that nitty gritty word that defines who you are, or are not, as the case may be.