“Exploding Kittens” is possibly one of my favourite card games of all time. Created by The Oatmeal (an hilarious cartoon illustrator, among other things), the object of the game is to be the only kitten which hasn’t exploded. Each card in the pack contains a specific instruction which can be used to try and get your opponent to spontaneously combust, thereby taking them out of the game. One of the cards you can play is the “Nope”, which “stops the action of another player”. I find the “Nope” to be most useful.
If only life had a “Nope” card…
We have been programmed to be a society of people-pleasers. Unfortunately for us, the only people we’re not pleasing happens to be ourselves. (Well, perhaps you are, but that is a different topic altogether…).
I’m talking about that coffee date with an old colleague who does nothing but moan in lengthy monologues. That urgent project you weren’t involved in which has now been dumped on your desk at the last minute. That person at the gym who has interrupted your workout to chat about rubbish. That favour you were asked to do for a previous employer (true story). That baby shower for Susan in the accounts department (since when has there been a Susan working here?). When last did you say “no” to something you really didn’t want to do?
“And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.” – from “Time” by Pink Floyd
There are 168 hours in a week. Yip – the time between Sunday lunches is a mere 168 hours. Are you spending them on things that you want to achieve or does your life seem to be scheduled by other people? Are you always super busy, but never seem to tick off anything on your own “things I’d like to do” list?
Fear not! There is a simple solution to freeing up a substantial amount of time for yourself. Here is a quick guide to help remind us all how to say the most powerful word in any language – “No!”
Say the word
Speak now or forever hold your piece – traditional wedding vows
Seriously. Many of us probably haven’t said it in a while. You need to actually hear the word come out of your mouth. Say it. Say it now.
Synonyms for the win
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” – Benjamin Franklin
No is not very subtle and sometimes a situation requires a more delicate touch. Synonyms open you up to the “gentle let down”. Things like “I’m sorry, but I’m snowed under right now”, “I already have plans” or “I’m completely engrossed in task right now and it wouldn’t be fair of me to not give you 100% focus – I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help” take the sting out of a refusal. Beware though, synonyms open you up to the dreaded “maybe later”. Not saying no straight off the bat is simply just a delayed yes, so choose your words wisely.
(As an important side note, a polite no (and synonyms) and a f&*$ off (and synonyms) are two different beasts. One shows strength of character and a determination to save yourself from some low priority task being thrust upon you. The other will get you fired and alienate all your friends).
“Liars need to have good memories.” – Algernon Sidney
Often when we’re asked something that we would prefer not to do, we feel the need to justify our refusal. The absolute worst thing to do is fabricate a reason – stories, lies and excuses have a way of coming back to haunt you, so it’s best leave them out of the equation altogether. In all likelihood, it’s none of their business anyway, so if they ask for a reason just tell them it’s “personal” – that is usually enough to halt all further questioning.
Stop feeling guilty
“Guilt is an extreme waste of time and energy.” – Emily Giffin
Saying no is hard and guilt abounds if you’re not used to it. It’s pretty much a guarantee that the person encroaching on your time feels no guilt at all, so why should you? Luckily there is an easy way to combat this most useless of emotions. Simply remember that there are two types of people in the world – those who have time for themselves and those that don’t. If someone had to ask me which category I’d rather be in, I would definitely not reply “why yes – I hate having time to myself to do stuff that’s really important to me, so I really do prefer it when other people make sure I’m always busy”. The guilt will eventually fade over (all your new free) time.
Practise makes perfect
The trick is to put this all into action. I thereby challenge you to say “no” to everything (within logic and reason, obviously) for the next 7 days. (Except this challenge, of course… You need to say “yes” to that in order to participate… But that’s the last time for a whole week!).
To play your “Nope” card is to say “yes” to yourself
Saying “no” is possibly the single hardest thing a human being has to learn how to do. But mastering it means you are, in fact, saying “yes”. Yes to less stress and chronic busyness. Yes to more time to focus on stuff that’s important to you. Yes to being in more control of where your 168-hours-a-week get spent. And quite frankly, who would want to say no to that?