There’s a tendency that you may have faced in your work life. No! It’s not about staying late to get the presentation done or doing every work of your boss or colleague. 

So what is it all about? Famous billionaire Warren Buffett said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

Do you feel confident enough to say “no” to taking another task or being committed to another event? Often, we do just the opposite for fear of hurting our reputations or harming our career prospects.

But Warren Buffett didn’t mean giving your denial to everything. There’s a scientific reason or, better say, an experience that will help you understand how saying “no” works. 

The scientific experiment 

One of the most useful skills you can develop, especially when it comes to living a more productive and healthy life, is learning how to say no.

Not being able to say no is one of the most significant shortcomings that successful entrepreneurs claim. But how can we get through daily life’s urgencies to eliminate distractions to concentrate on the essential things?

If you think closely, there are two small phrases related to “no”: “I can’t” and “I don’t.” By keeping these phrases in mind, researchers Vanessa M. Patrick and Henrik Hagtvedt wanted to see how people can say “no” when they face any temptation or influence. 

By inviting 30 working women to sign up for a “health and wellness seminar,” the researchers planned a report. All the women were asked to think of a critical target for long-term health and well-being. The researchers then divided the women into three groups of 10.

Group 1 was instructed to “just say no” if they are pressured to compromise their goals. For instance, “I am not missing my presentation today.”

The researchers advised Group 2 that they should adopt the ‘can’t’ technique if they were inclined to compromise their goals. For instance, “I can’t miss my presentation today.”

And Group 3 was advised that they should adopt the “don’t” technique. For instance, “I don’t miss presentations.”

For the next ten days, each woman got an email with specific instructions so that the researchers can track her improvement. They would receive these emails to address whether the strategies worked for them or not. If the procedure worked negatively, they could stop sending responses. 

After ten days of observation, researchers found- 

  • 3 out of 10 women from Group 1 could continue with their goals for the whole ten days. 
  • Disappointingly, only 1 out of 10 women from Group 2 could continue with their goals for the whole ten days.
  • Surprisingly, 8 out of 10 women from Group 3 could continue with their goals for the whole ten days.

These terms help you make positive decisions on an individual level. Also, these terminologies make it easier for you to remain focused on your long-term objectives.

What works better?

The phrases help you to frame your sense of autonomy and empowerment. If you choose the better words, you create a feedback loop that affects your brain’s potential actions. So which one is better to use?

If you observe the “I can’t” phrase, you build a feedback loop that shows you your limits. This phrasing means that you are pushing yourself to do what you don’t want to do.

On the other hand, if you use the “I don’t” phrase, you create a feedback loop that tells you of your influence over the situation and your strength. This phrase can also drive towards the right habits and break the bad ones. 

When you use the “I don’t” term, it sounds empowering. It’s an affirmation of your willpower and commitment. But the “I can’t” phrase doesn’t mean a choice. It limits you and makes you feel like something is imposed on you.  

In short, the “I don’t” terminology is a psychologically empowering way of saying no, while the “I can’t” phrase is a psychologically exhausting way of saying no.

Why should you implement this professionally?

In professional life, the habit of saying “yes” doesn’t mean that you’re talented enough to pull up any task. Often, for this habit, you end up doing tasks that are not relevant to your work. Or you do things that are only advantageous not for you but your boss or colleagues. There’s a fine line between helping someone and being only a benefit to others. 

These two phrases aren’t just words. They’re declarations of what you think, reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing, and reminders about where you want to go.

The ability to say “no” confidently is essential not just for your physical fitness but also for your productivity and mental wellbeing. So you can either choose to be someone’s benefit or give importance to your goals and empower yourself.