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The Generosity of No

“When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” —Paulo Coelho

The Generosity of No

In this Season of Busyness, how does your business fare? Perhaps more importantly, how are you engaging in self-care? If your life is anything like mine, there are one or three invitations to events coming in daily right now. Parades, parties, potluck gatherings, charitable events, anniversary celebrations, impromptu gatherings of friends and family, and the list goes on. How many do you feel compelled to squeeze into the same day?  

Perhaps your thoughts run along these lines:

  • I have to go because it would be rude not to be there, and the host/ person who invited me will think I don’t care about them, and they came to my (event) last year/ month/ week. . .
  • It would be foolish for me not to attend since this is a great referral partner for my business, and if I don’t attend they might change their referral practices…
  • What if I don’t attend this event and that person I’ve been trying so hard to get hold of is there—I’ll have missed my opportunity to connect with them.

I’m sure there are more reasons you cannot miss every single event you are invited to which might be inserted here. So write them all down. Every reason you can think of for attending every single event already on your schedule. 

Then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my personal highest priority during the last two months of this year? Be brutally, deeply honest about this. Think about what matters the most, in your innermost being, at this time of year.
  • Have I scheduled time for the thing that matters most, or is it getting the leftovers?  
  • How will attending this event (for everything on your schedule or that you are considering) impact your highest priority?
  • How deep a connection have you ever established at a Holiday event in the past?
  • How much business has been generated by attending a Holiday event in the past?
  • If you cannot honestly provide concrete numbers and names for the last two questions, how will it be different this year?

Now, do this little exercise: sit in a firm chair with your feet on the floor and your calendar on your lap. Close your eyes and think about your favorite place in the world. Where is it? Mountains? Beach? A family home? What does it look like? What colors do you see? How much light is there, and where does it come from? What is the temperature of the place? Is there a breeze? What is the temperature like on your skin? What do you smell? What are the sounds you hear? Are there people with you? Who are they? How do you feel when you look at them? What is your breathing like? How is your heart rate? Is your belly soft?

Now, look at the first event on your calendar and notice if there are changes in your sensations of breathing, heart rate, or belly softness. Do this for each event on your calendar, taking a moment between each one to go back to your favorite place and quiet your responses. Were there any events on your calendar that did not generate changes in your responses? 

Identify only two events currently on your calendar which you believe will best provide an opportunity for this year to be different. Who is hosting the event? How does their business align with your business? Is it truly an opportunity for connecting? Then ask yourself why you were invited or planning to attend that event. Is it important to stay in contact with the host?

Remove everything else that does not support your number one priority for the end of the year from your calendar. Make a list of people to contact—if you have RSVP’d for an event, and call them. Invite them to get out their calendar and schedule a time to meet for coffee or lunch sometime soon after the first of the year. Let them know how much you appreciate the invitation (or your existing relationship) and that you are interested in pursuing a deeper personal relationship with them than can be achieved at a Holiday event. You will probably hear them breathe a sigh of relief and they will appreciate your personal interest in them even more than you attending an event where a quick passing hello is about all any host can manage.

Now that you’ve opened up time in your calendar, and can breathe a little easier yourself, the next time someone invites you to an event, you have the ability to decide if this is a good fit for your priorities during this time, and if they are someone you want to stay in touch with, you can make a date for January coffee and watch them relax into appreciation of your generous No.

by Dr. Nancy Harden


Dr. Nancy Harden is “Dr. Mom” to two young adult sons. Observer of humanity. Lifelong learner. Curious explorer. Recently returned to an increasingly simplified ‘Do it now’ lifestyle. Believer in being of service. Appreciator of the gratification of ‘Doing it myself’. Business builder. Movement magician. Stress intervention specialist. Serial entrepreneur/ bootstrapper. Accomplished public speaker and educator.

My “pedigree” includes being a Certified Feldenkrais practitioner (since 2000 – after 6 years of training), retired physical therapist (over 30 years experience) with both Masters and Doctoral degrees in physical therapy from Baylor University.