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Do yourself a big favor. Invest in your ability to say no masterfully. Vanessa Patrick’s research illuminates why we say yes when we really want to say no. She offers valuable practical tips on how to say no gracefully, but firmly, using what she calls empowered refusal. She advocates clarifying your purpose and your priorities, setting Personal Policies around them – and being mindful of the words you choose when you do say no. In retirement, saying no at the right times can set you free – so you can invest your time on the things that truly matter most to you.
Vanessa Patrick is the author of The Power of Saying No: The New Science of How to Say No that Puts You in Charge of Your Life.
Dr. Patrick is a Professor of Marketing and the Associate Dean for Research at the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. She has a PhD in Business from the University of Southern California and an MBA in marketing and a BS degree in microbiology and biochemistry from Bombay University in India. Patrick has published dozens of research articles in top-tier academic journals in psychology, marketing, and management, and popular accounts of her work have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Los Angeles Times, Business Week, Fast Company, Forbes, Huffington Post and Washington Post. In her research, she investigates strategies to achieve personal mastery and inspire everyday excellence in oneself and others and is a pioneer in the study of everyday consumer aesthetics. Patrick lives with her family in Houston, Texas.
For More on Vanessa Patrick
Research Study: ‘I Don’t’ versus ‘I Can’t’: When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior by Vanessa Patrick & Henrik Hagtvedt
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Podcast Episodes You May Like
On Why We Say Yes When We Really Don’t Want To
“In my research, I identify three main reasons as to why we say yes, when we want to say no. One is a concern for the relationships we have with others. So when people ask us to do something, they’re usually our friends, our family, people who are colleagues and acquaintances, and we want to have a good relationship with those people. We want to maintain that good relationship. The second reason ties into our reputation. We want to be seen positively in the eyes of people. We want to be seen as capable, as confident, as able to handle the things that are thrown our way. And the third thing is we have never really learned how to say no effectively throughout our lives. We’ve kind of tried to accommodate people’s requests and be cooperative and helpful, and [we’re] givers more than takers. And society in many ways, kind of shapes that sort of behavior and rewards that sort of behavior. And so we have never really learned to look inwards and think about how do I say no to the things that are not aligned with what I want to do or what I want to achieve.”
On Choosing the Right Words
“So, in my research, I actually focus on what are the words that we can use to communicate our refusal, that implicate the identity? And the way you implicate your identity is you ground your refusal in your identity is by choosing your words carefully. When you say, I can’t, you come across as disempowered, not in control, and suggest to the asker that, well, under some other situation, I would be able to say yes, but right now I can’t. And that very often invites pushback, negotiation discussion. Whereas when you say, I don’t, you implicate yourself, you say: This is my way of operating. This is who I am. This is how I do things. So, I don’t is a much more empowered way to communicate your refusal.”
On Setting Personal Policies
“So, a Personal Policy is essentially a simple rule that we set up for ourselves that give voice to our values and priorities that shape our actions and decisions. So, these are just rules that we set up. They are operating principles that allow us to live life the way we want to live life. And I very often, when I’m teaching this, use the example of travel. Now we all travel and it’s summer, so it makes sense to be talking about travel because it’s very close to our hearts. When we travel, we have preferences and we like certain things. So some people are aisle seats and some people are window seats. Some people just can’t stand a overnight red-eye flight, whereas other people are okay with it. Some people will say, I will not travel to Europe unless it is at least a week. whereas other people don’t have that preference in place. So more importantly, we have such good preferences and we know our preferences about travel, and so we are able to design our travel around those preferences. And as soon as I say that to people, then you can realize that if you can do it with travel, you can do it with any domain. You can do it with how you deal with friends, how you deal with family, how you deal with going to the gym, how you deal with entertainment, how you spend your time on social media – absolutely everything. What are your preferences, priorities, beliefs and values in that domain? And how would you like them to be seen? And how do you want to operate in accordance with those?”
About Retirement Wisdom
I help people who are retiring, but not quite done yet, discover what’s next. A long retirement is a terrible thing to waste.
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Joe Casey is an executive coach who also helps people design their next life after their primary career. He created his own next chapter after a twenty-six-year career at Merrill Lynch, where he was Senior Vice President and Head of HR for Global Markets & Investment Banking. Today, in addition to his work with clients, Joe hosts The Retirement Wisdom Podcast, which thanks to his guests and loyal listeners, ranks in the top 1 % globally in popularity by Listen Notes. Business Insider has recognized him as one of 23 innovative coaches who are making a difference. He’s the author of Win the Retirement Game: How to Outsmart the 9 Forces Trying to Steal Your Joy.