How to say no and mean it

How often do you say ‘yes’ to something and regret it immediately?

Too often, right?

Then you’re stuck doing something you don’t want to, or don’t have the time for.

Saying ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’ is a real productivity killer, and it doesn’t help your stress levels, either!

Why do you always say yes?

It’s human nature. We naturally want to help and we want people to like us. Sometimes we want to be known as the expert who makes things happen. Sometimes we do it because we feel we will do it best.

Let’s look at each of those things logically.

  1. People will like you whether you say ‘yes’ this time or not. They don’t decide that sort of thing based on one request.
  2. You can be an expert without having to do it yourself. Experts guide and advise. They mentor. They don’t have to do the whole thing.
  3. Would you do it best? Quite possibly you would, but are you the only one who could do it well? It’s unlikely. It’s also unlikely that the project will fail simply because said ’no.’

The problem with taking onboard everyone else’s requests is that you put yourself under insane amounts of pressure to get everything done. Something has to give, and it is going to be your health or your work. Rather than put yourself in that situation, learn to say ‘no.’

How to say no effectively

While saying no can be hard, there are ways to decline without upsetting people. It’s quite simple.

  1. Take your time to answer. Don’t reply immediately. Think about it. Is it something you want to do? Do you have time for it? Will you benefit by it? How does it make you feel? Does it fit with your priorities or your values? Are you the best person for the job? Think about it and consider how you feel. Don’t worry about taking time to reply because it shows you’re really thinking about what you’ve been asked to do.
  2. Be clear with your answer, whether it’s yes or no. Don’t mutter and don’t put off the decision. The longer you wait to give an answer, the more likely it is that your sense of guilt will pressure you into a yes. Be specific.
  3. Pre-prepare some responses. While you don’t need to justify your answer, it can make both of you feel more comfortable with a ‘no’ reply. The hard thing about being put on the spot with a request is that it’s hard to think up a reasonable reply. You know you’ll be in this situation again, so think about a few possible replies. Booked out, no time, personal commitments… If you think about them now, you’ll remember them when you need them.

Saying ‘no’ is not a bad thing! It is often the best thing you could do for your health, your work performance, your family life and even for the task you’re being asked to do. Get over the guilt. You are making a wise and responsible decision.

Try saying no today and see how much pressure you take off yourself.

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