How Successful People Say No

Why Aren’t You Protecting What’s Important to You?

The more you do, the more people ask you to do. And if you’re a people pleaser – which most people are – you’ll say yes. And as soon as the “y” word escapes your mouth, I bet you begin to cry on the inside because saying yes means saying no to: sleep, friends, loved ones, rest, hobbies that keep you sane, family and exercise. Or, at least I do.

Learning how to say no does more than help you keep your sanity. It’s also a useful discipline because knowing when to say no means that you have a clear understanding of what you want. This ensures that you pour your energy into the right places.

Clarity on what’s important to you also helps you fight the very Millennial issue of FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”) and reduce the number of failures you experience. If you want real examples of why saying no can save you from financial and personal ruin, listen to this 30 minute podcast (tip: fast forward the first 5 minutes as it’s all ads).

How to Say No – Even if You Need to be Liked!

As a professed “yes” addict and someone who gets a lot of “nos”, I’ve accumulated some very effective strategies on how to say “no”:

  1. You’re typically caught off guard, which means that you’re likely to default to your typical response – “yes”. Prevent this knee-jerk reaction by ALWAYS delaying the response. Say something like, “that’s interesting. Let me see if I can fit it in. Can I get back to you in a few hours?”.
  2. Turn it back on them. No, don’t ask them for the favour, but make them feel like you’re doing them a service by saying no. For example, you may not be able to give the project the attention it deserves. You may also not have the skills needed to provide value. The goal of this “no” tactic is to show why you wouldn’t be doing the committee/group any favours.
  3. If they desperately need the work done immediately or are guilting you into the work due to lack of resources etc, offer the “requester” another colleague or enemy’s (depending on the request) name. If you’re able, you can also offer to help find someone else to take on the task.
  4. If you’re truly interested, but are swamped, ask them to check back with you in a few months. List everything you’re working and provide an exact date to reconnect on the opportunity offered. Do this only if your desire to participate in the future is genuine. It’s not fair to waste anyone’s time.
  5. You may have a conflict. In fact, this happened to me. An organization asked me to sit on its Board, but I had to decline. Not only was I busy, but the organization was a potential competitor to another group in which I was involved. This gave me a second and legitimate reason for not being able to commit.

Saying no, just like negotiation, take practise. Let me know if you try these yes-addiction-busting-tips and how it worked out!