3 Tips To Get Better At Saying “No”

You are absolutely slammed, rushing between emergencies, trying to get any of your million tasks done, and wondering how you will make it through this day. Then, someone asks you to handle a project you definitely do not have time for and you say “yes”. Immediately you hate yourself and are asking why in the world you ever agreed?!?

This is a common story for so many managers. We worry about the perception of others if we claim to have too much on our plate. At being perceived as lazy, or as if we do not have everything under control.

In this article, we will discuss confronting these feelings and the vast benefits of that one magic word "No".

How Yes Equals No

As described in our intro story, the act of saying yes is often a regret timebomb. We have just traded one short uncomfortable conversation for a future much more unhealthy mental explosion.

Deeply ingrained in our core code humans are reciprocal beings. We have a deep internal need to feel beneficial to the societies we associate with.

Further “We live in a ‘yes’ culture, where it’s expected that the person who is going to get ahead is the go-getter who says yes to everything that comes their way,” per Dara Blaine, a career counselor and coach in Los Angeles.

“It’s when people learn to say no that I’ve really seen their careers take off,” she went on to say.

We would also say learning to say "no" not only will improve your career but your life and the lives of those around you.

The key here is realizing every "yes" we give is a "no" to something or someone else in our life. The ugly truth is helping that unorganized work colleague or having dinner with that long-lost not so much friend is saying "no" to family time, to time devoted to improving our health, or even simply to needed rest and rejuvenation for being our best daily.

It might not feel like it sometimes, but we are largely in control of how busy we are.

Tips for Saying No - Action Steps

Tip 1 - 

To prevent the cycle of aimlessly floating between requests and deciding speratically which to reject, it helps to view requests through the lens of your own long-term goals. Few of us have the resolve to say no on our own, and there are definitely times saying yes is a bigger benefit than detriment.

For this reason, we recommend you begin with clarifying goals. If you do not have clarity on what you would like or where you would like to end up, it is impossible to methodically decide when "yes" or "no" is your best option.

Tip 2 -

Now that you have a big picture understanding of your aspirations to guide you, it's time to start saying no. 

"No" is difficult at first but, like anything in life, you will get better with practice. 

Begin with being more aggressive when the stakes are low. For example, when a solicitor comes knocking instead of using soft language that perpetuates the conversation try saying something like “Sorry, I don’t purchase from solicitors. Now, please excuse me I have pressing deadlines that require my attention." Instead of something passive like "I'm not really interested right now" which implies the decision is up for debate.

It’s a lot easier to be assertive with strangers than it is when your unorganized co-worker is asking for assistance again. Get comfortable with your assertiveness when it’s easy so you’ll be prepared when there’s more pressure.

Work on avoiding guilt after saying "No." The more times you say it the easier it’ll become, so don’t shy away the next time you want to refuse an idea.

Tip 3-

The last tip that can strengthen your resolve is making a list for yourself of what a "Yes" to non-important requests means in your life. Keep this list handy, preferably in your journal, to strengthen your resolve. Here is a starter list:

  • What if I don't say "No":
    • I will overload on unimportant tasks preventing me from saying yes to really important things and opportunities
    • People with no real significance in my life will crowd out my time for family and close friends.
    • Other people will set my priorities and schedule my life.
    • I will have no time for rest and recovery
    • I will be stressed from constant overload.


Each person’s mileage is going to vary. But if you feel overcommitted, no is a small word that can remind you how much control you have over your destiny.

Blessings In Your Endeavors,

Ruben Watson 

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