Welcome everyone. How are you? I’m your host, Greg McKeown, and I am here with you on this journey so that we can learn how to be utilized at our highest point of contribution. How are you doing at saying no gracefully? If this continues to be a struggle for you as it still is for me, then today’s episode can help. By the end of today’s episode, you will learn how to use AI tools, including ChatGPT, to be able to make saying no more effortless and more graceful. This is part two of a multi-part series in how to use AI to make a more essentialist, effortless lifestyle personally and professionally. Let’s get to it.
Remember to click to subscribe so that you can stay updated with our future episodes every Tuesday and every Thursday. Thank you, really thank you, for everybody who subscribed.
In their several years of working together, Jin Yung had never really negotiated with her manager. She would simply say yes, even if it threw her life into temporary turmoil, as it often did. She had given unknowable hours to executing every request and task diligently, delivering them in neat and complete packages, no matter the sacrifice.
But after attending a workshop I was teaching on essentialism, or the disciplined pursuit of less, she decided to create a social contract to draw some boundaries at work. Specifically, it outlined how she would increase her productivity at work while also having five days off to focus entirely on preparing for her upcoming wedding. Jin Jung’s manager agreed to the terms. In fact, she was surprised and delighted when Jin Yung put in several especially focused days and completed her work ahead of schedule.
So this allowed Jin Yung the chance to immerse herself in the uninterrupted days of wedding planning that her boss and she had agreed to. However, in the midst of her wedding planning, her manager asked her to take on an additional project prior to an upcoming board meeting because someone else on the team had dropped the ball. This time, instead of capitulating to the pressure from her boss, she pointed to the social contract and said words to the effect, “I would love to help with this project, and I can see that this is a problem. However, we came to a clear agreement on this, and I have completed my side of the bargain. I have planned for this time. I have worked hard for it, and I deserve to be able to have it guilt-free.” She then spent five days immersed in preparing for her big day.
At first, her boss was fuming, but after laboring over the task herself for days, she saw all sorts of flaws in the way she’d been managing the team. She soon realized that if she wanted to be a more effective manager, she needed to pull in the reins and get clear with each member of the team about expectations, accountability, and outcomes. Basically, to set up a social contract with every member of the team.
Jin Yung not only opened her manager’s eyes to unhealthy team dynamics and opened up a space for change. She did it in a way that earned her respect. Jin Yung was so affected by this experience that she decided to incorporate the experience into her vows, promising that she would essentialize her relationship with her husband above all others.
Many of us struggle with the throes of incessant commitments, and yet we seldom utter the powerful word no. Now the merits of saying no are ample by declining extraneous tasks and commitments, you afford yourself the luxury of concentration on your highest objectives and preexisting obligations. Absent of such practices, you might unwittingly be entrapped in the snares of the agendas of others, and your own essential projects may soon find themselves neglected and gathering cobwebs. And it is also clear that many who achieve the greatest success do so by meticulously arranging their tasks of paramount importance and being undeterred in their focus.
With all of this, one can simply say many of us remain novices at no. In my personal journey saying No. Simply has at times been a tumultuous battle of anxieties about seeming inaccessible or, more troublingly, giving an impression of self-importance greater than the person seeking my help have perennially troubled me, but directly related to this has been the quest for an appropriate methodology for delivering a refusal. Let’s say it more simply – to learn exactly how to say no and to do it gracefully.
My observations with all of this have coalesced to a single potent truth. The most successful people in any endeavor decline over 90% of the requests directed their way. I call this the 90% rule. They simply lack the time to seize every opportunity presented, and with that particular challenge, they develop a unique skill. They master the art of saying no, doing so in a manner that is not only efficient but also respectful, ultimately leaving a positive imprint.
Now, I’m not big into acronyms normally, but this one, I think, is a winner. The acronym here is nope, NOPE, and it stands for a graceful approach to saying No, where you, one, navigate your limitations. Two, outline your priorities. Three, provide explanations, and four, establish boundaries. I’m going to break each of those down in detail, and the language precisely will be available in the show notes.
And you can use this exact structure along with AI to produce graceful no’s when people ask you for things you want to say yes to but you know you can’t fulfill to your and their satisfaction.
So first, navigate this is to understand your own limitations and capacity and navigate the situation by acknowledging that you can’t cater to all requests. We could break that down a little further to acknowledge your limitations and bandwidth. And two, to frame the conversation with it’s me, not you, perspective, to admit that you are currently overwhelmed with your existing commitments, and it’s not about the validity or value of their request. So that’s step one.
Two is to outline your priorities to clearly state that your focus is on your existing prioritization and your ongoing commitments. You can assert that you are directing your energy toward your existing projects. You can make it clear that your current commitments demand your focus.
Three, provide explanation. You can give a brief insight into what you are currently working on to foster understanding and empathy. You can share the why. Most individuals appreciate details that allow them to empathize with your position, and you can explain that the completion of ongoing commitments takes precedence over engaging with new ones. This allows you to maintain integrity and follow through on your current promises.
And then, four, establish boundaries. You can set expectations by stating your policy. If it’s applicable, you can explain a broader policy against undertaking new meetings, calls, or projects at this time. This communicates your stance and aids in managing future expectations.
So that’s the note structure. You navigate the situation by acknowledging you can’t cater to all requests. You outline priorities, you provide an explanation, and you establish boundaries going forward. So here’s an example of what that might look like in practice.
First off, my apologies for the delay in getting back to you. My plate has been beyond full lately. I’ve always had a knack for diving headfirst into new discussions and projects, but truth be told, I’m at my limit right now and need to hit the brakes. So for the next, while I’m putting a hold on new meetings or calls that aren’t already part of my commitments. It’s time to finish up a few big things on my to-do list, like writing my latest book and really zero in on what’s essential. Until things get back in balance, that’s how it’s got to be. Thanks for understanding, Greg.
And now, a reminder to use this example only as a template. Now, here again, is the point to use AI to create your own versions of this in a heartbeat, AI makes a great servant but a poor master.
The advent of AI, particularly systems like ChatGPT, has broadened our horizons when it comes to managing our lives, but the onus is on us to use this advanced tool wisely. The potential of AI should not be leveraged to pack our days with even more tasks, but to streamline our lives, carving out space to focus on what truly matters. Saying no gracefully, as shown through Jin Young’s story, is about more than just protecting your time and space. It is a crucial component of building a life that aligns with your values, prioritizing what is genuinely essential, and fostering healthy relationships, both personal and professional. The NOPE method offers a constructive approach to turning down requests or opportunities that do not align with your current goals or capacities. By clearly navigating your limitations, outlining your priorities, providing a thoughtful explanation, and establishing boundaries, you not only maintain respect and trust in your relationships but you also your needs and ensure that your energy is directed towards your most significant commitments.
AI can assist in crafting these messages, enabling you to communicate your stance eloquently and effectively. In the fast-paced, interconnected world we live in today, learning to say no is no longer just an interpersonal skill. It’s a survival skill, and with the right tools and techniques, it can be cultivated and mastered.
Join me in subsequent episodes in this series as we continue to explore how to leverage AI to facilitate a more essentialist and effortless lifestyle. Use this series as a stepping stone to not only understand the transformative capabilities of AI but also to make strategic decisions about your time and energy allocation in an increasingly demanding world. Our ultimate goal is not to be perpetually busier but to attain a level of ease and effectiveness in our lives where we can focus on what genuinely matters.
Don’t miss out on the next episode in this journey. Hit the subscribe button now and stay tuned for the upcoming discussions every Tuesday and Thursday. Until then, keep questioning, keep learning, and above all, keep prioritizing what’s essential. Until next time.