In business, we hear the word “NO” often. It’s just part of the job. We hear NO so often, in fact, that we sometimes say YES just to counteract all that negativity that we see and feel. Being on the business end of no can be brutal and disheartening, but saying yes all the time (when we ourselves should be saying no) isn’t going to fix things or make it all better. Not surprisingly, saying yes all the time makes you feel stressed out and allows others to value your time even less. If you say yes often enough, people will come to expect it which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to be said for the power of Yes! Yes invokes energy, trust and creativity. It feels good to say yes…for the most part, we all WANT to be helpful and accommodating but it can also lead to a lot of stress and consternation and lack of productivity.

When I use the word “NO” in this article, I’m not talking about negativity. That is a completely different topic. Negativity is a chronic attitude. It is, as Dr. Judith Sills explained, “a pair of emotional glasses through which some people see a cloudy view of the world.” By contrast, no is a decision in time.

All of us have gotten to that level where we have reached our breaking point and have needed to put our foot down. Some actually do, but some just can’t or won’t say no even when they know it needs to be done.

Here are some practical ways that you can say no:

Do It Quickly – Once you realize that saying yes isn’t the wisest course of action, politely decline right away. Don’t say “I need to check my schedule” or promise to get back to them. This will be interpreted as a “soft yes” and they will begin to make plans. If you know you can’t or suspect it, nicely inform them that you have a conflict. Your conflict doesn’t necessarily need to be your schedule. It may be a competing priority or commitment.

Be Honest – Don’t feel like you need to make excuses. Be honest and explain you have other commitments and can’t do it. Be aware that people and organizations use guilt and manipulation to get people to do things. Understand this and take the initiative by letting them know that you appreciate their confidence in you but that you are stretched too thin and aren’t in a position to offer them your best effort.

Give An Alternative – Sometimes we really want to help but the timing is just off. Let them know that you are willing and suggest an alternate time or date. If it isn’t going to be timely, suggest someone else who might be able to help them.

Stand Your Ground – If someone doesn’t accept your no, politely stand your ground and be firm. If they won’t accept your no, then that person probably doesn’t respect you or your time and needs. Sometimes you have to be selfish. Perhaps we can gain some insight from Warren Buffet who said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

It can be very helpful for you to establish some personal boundaries to enable you to know when to say NO and when to say YES.

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself-

  • Do I really want to do what is being asked of me?
  • How will I benefit from doing this task or attending this event/activity?
  • Am I the best person to do it?
  • Is this the best use of my time? What else could I do with that time?

Using these questions and others that you develop as a filter will help you to come to a logical conclusion whether you should agree to what is being asked or to politely pass.

Many of us say yes because of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). We are worried that we might miss out on an opportunity, an exciting event or some other thing that we think we might be important. This might be the case but we can’t attend EVERY event or take part in EVERY opportunity. We have to prioritize so that our productivity (and sanity) doesn’t suffer.

Saying no might feel weird or awkward at first but just like everything else in life, it becomes easier and less unfamiliar and awkward with practice. Often we don’t do something because of fear. Many are simply afraid to say no. Once you overcome this fear (through diligent practice!), you will be surprised how much easier it becomes and how much more productive and personally powerful you can be.

There is a right and a wrong way to say Yes and No. Follow THIS LINK to an Entrepreneur magazine article that gives some great advice.


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