It’s so rare these days to hear someone answer a question by saying “No.” People beat around the bush and even say “Yes” to things they don’t want to do. When did it become so taboo to simply say “No”?
Let me share an example.
A friend may ask, “Hey, do you want to go to a networking event after work this Thursday?” To which you respond, “I’m really sorry but I don’t think I can. I have so much stuff to do on Thursday and I have to get up really early on Friday morning, but I’ll let you know if something changes, okay?”
It’s obvious that a simple “No” would suffice. So, why the elaborate explanation?
Why People Struggle With Saying No
Here are five common reasons why people often struggle to say “No.”
- They fear confrontation. It’s so much easier to roll over and say “Yes” than to stand your ground and respond with a confident “No.”
- They are afraid of rejection. They fear that if they say “No” to one request they may not get asked to do something else in the future.
- They want to please everybody. People pleasers are notorious for always saying “Yes.” They want to make everyone happy, often times at their own expense.
- They don’t value their time enough. Simply put, they think someone else’s time is more important than their own.
- They need approval from others to validate their decision. They want others to understand and empathize with the reasons why they are saying “No,” so that their decision feels acceptable.
Learn How To Say No More Often
The word “No” by itself is incredibly powerful. It projects a level of strength and confidence that few words can match.
Use it to your advantage.
The first step to saying “No” more often is to actually say the word. Say, “No.”
Don’t respond with something that sort of sounds like “no” but is actually far from it, like “I don’t think so” or “maybe next time.” Just say “No.”
Don’t worry that a firm but polite “No” will make you look like a jerk. It won’t. People respect those of us who say what we mean and mean what we say.
At first it may be difficult to just say “No,” and you may be tempted to offer an explanation.
Resist the urge.
Trust me when I tell you that saying “No” will quickly become second nature.
By saying “No” more often you’ll unlock the time you need to do the things that truly matter to you.
To quote the great Warren Buffett:
The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.
Related: Hope Is Not A Strategy
How To Say No At Work
But JD, what about when I’m at work and the boss asks me to do something? I can’t just say “No,” right?
Yes and no.
There are times when a simple “No” can be effective. But when in doubt, here are two effective ways to say “No” in the workplace.
First, pair a firm but polite “No” with the word “because.” For example, when the boss asks, “Do you have capacity to turn around a new project by Friday?” You might respond, “No, because I have two other time-sensitive matters that I need to deliver this week and a new project would pull me away from doing my best work.”
I’ve found this technique to be extremely effective at fending off unwanted work while at the same time showing your boss that you can effectively manage your time and are focused on delivering top-notch work product.
Second, have another superior say “No” for you. Using the example above, you might respond, “I would love to take on a new project but I am working on two time-sensitive matters for partner X right now. Let me talk to partner X and see if he thinks I’ll have capacity to take on this project.”
I often use this approach when I’m working on a matter for partner X and partner Y asks me to do something. This approach is effective because partner X needs his work to get done, so 9 times out of 10 he will go to bat for you.
To sum up, never forget that saying “Yes” to one thing often means saying “No” to another.
There’s no reason to feel guilty about valuing your time enough to spend it on only those things you truly care about.
Choose yourself and just say “No” more often.
All the best,