How To Say No To Others (And Yes To Yourself)

Do you might have issues saying no?

I was actually dangerous at saying no. A part of it was as a result of I didn’t like to depart folks within the lurch. One other half was as a result of I didn’t need to disappoint others. There was additionally part of me felt that saying no may imply burning bridges with others (a deep-set a part of the Asian tradition), and I didn’t need to jeopardize my relationships with others.

Therefore I might say sure every time I may, and no as sometimes as attainable.

Actuality of Saying Sure

Whereas saying sure may look like a straightforward approach out of the conundrum above, in actuality it was a horrible resolution.

As a result of whereas it supplied fast short-term reduction — avoiding confrontation with others and coping with uncomfortable feelings — saying sure has its personal long-term implications. As a result of each time we are saying sure to one thing, we are saying no to our personal priorities. Think about the next:

  • Every time you say sure to stuff you don’t actually get pleasure from, you say no to the stuff you do get pleasure from.
  • Every time you say sure to stuff you’re not likely eager about, you say no to the targets you may be engaged on.
  • Every time you say sure to meetups that usually go nowhere, you say no to time with the folks you actually care about.
  • And every time you say sure to one more favor, you say no to the issues most vital to you.

So once I first began my enterprise, I mentioned sure to virtually every little thing. Meetups, networking periods, pick-my-brain periods, favors, collaborations, weblog interviews, media interviews, workshops — it was a suresuresure all the way in which.

This labored properly for the primary few years. However as my enterprise grew, as I grew to become extra established in my area, I discovered myself with extra requests, invites, and calls for than I may humanly fulfill. I additionally repeatedly acquired requests for issues I didn’t actually care about, from individuals who had been proactive and aggressive in getting my time, which then continually moved these items to the highest of my listing.

Out of the blue, my days grew to become full of what others needed from me. I discovered myself busy assembly folks and satisfying their curiosity about what I do, however not nudging ahead within the issues on my listing. I discovered myself busy doing interviews, answering emails for assist, collaborating with others as a favor, agreeing to periods to select my mind, and doling out free recommendation to folks’s issues, with no time for my very own initiatives.

Quickly, I grew to become burnt out. My time was now not my very own — it was taken over by what others needed from me. This was once I realized the significance of claiming no.

Why Saying No is Essential

In a super world, we need to say sure to everybody. However saying “sure” simply to keep away from battle or disagreement isn’t the way in which to go. Saying no is important to…

  • Get issues executed. The fact is that every one of us have restricted hours a day. Except we are saying no to the opposite issues, we’ll by no means have time to get issues executed.
  • Have time for the vital. There’s a class of targets which are extremely vital however won’t ever turn into pressing, referred to as the Quadrant 2 targets. They embrace discovering your goal, setting your five-year imaginative and prescient, working in your ardour, and even beginning your enterprise. Saying no is about defending your Q2 targets and guaranteeing that you’ve got time for them.
  • Set boundaries. Some folks could assume that you’re free on a regular basis, that their requests are crucial, or that you need to make outing for them and them solely. While you don’t draw a line between your wants and others’ wants, folks will preserve assuming that you need to give and provides by default. Saying no is about setting boundaries and defending your area.
  • Regain management of your life. Lastly, saying no is about regaining management of your life and figuring out what goes into your days. To reject something that doesn’t fit your targets, that doesn’t make you cheerful, as a way to reside the life you really need.

On the finish of the day, each “sure” comes with its prices — your time, effort, happiness, and targets. Whereas the price could also be small for every “sure,” little trickles of improper sure’es over lengthy will deviate you from the place you need to be. To push away all these prices, these deviations, it’s important to be taught to say no — as a way to say sure to what you need.

Learn how to Say “No”

On the subject of saying no, there are two goals: you need to say no successfully, and also you need to say no tactfully. Listed below are my 7 tricks to say no.

1. Be direct

For the requests you need to reject, it’s a lot better to show down the individual immediately than to place it off. The longer you stall, the extra sophisticated it turns into, as a result of now you might have the added strain of explaining why you took so lengthy to answer. Simply be direct and get to the purpose.

At any time when I discover it arduous to reject somebody, I’ve a 2-sentence rule to get it over and executed with. Begin off with a “Sorry, I can’t.” Then, give your cause in a single sentence. (Or for those who don’t need to give a cause, simply finish it there.) Limiting your rejection to 2 sentences makes the rejection simpler, as a result of slightly than give some prolonged clarification about why you’ll be able to’t do one thing, which makes you procrastinate rejecting the individual, you narrow proper to the chase. Even when you find yourself replying in 3-4 sentences or extra, the 2-sentence rule helps you get began.


  • “I’m sorry, I can’t make it for this appointment.”
  • “I’ll cross this spherical, sorry about that.”
  • “This doesn’t meet my wants in the mean time. Thanks for having me in thoughts!”
  • “I’m tied down with one thing and received’t be capable of do that. Sorry!”

2. Be honest

Usually instances we’re apprehensive that if we are saying “no,” we’ll burn bridges. So we hum and haw and say sure. Or we relent and say sure when the individual persists.

Right here’s the factor — most individuals will settle for your no if you find yourself honest in it. No lies, no gimmicks. Simply plain uncooked honesty. E.g. “I’m not free to fulfill from now to June as I’m busy with [X]”, or “This isn’t a match with what I want to do proper now, sorry.”

In my podcast episode on How To Say No, I shared that I used to be as soon as invited to be on a board of advisors, by somebody of sure degree of significance. Whereas I needed to reject it, I didn’t really feel that I had a justifiable cause to take action. It wasn’t as a result of I had another vital engagement — I merely needed to focus alone work. After worrying about this for a couple of days, and enhancing and reediting my e mail reply, I made a decision to be trustworthy and say the reality: that being concerned on this would take time away from my very own initiatives, and I didn’t need to be concerned in it if I couldn’t give my 100%. Then I clicked “Ship.”

Because it turned out, he responded inside a day, telling me that he had learn my e mail with a smile, and that it was completely okay and to not fear about it in any respect!

Many instances, our worries about others are unfounded. Give attention to being honest in your response, with out mendacity or giving excuses. If the opposite individual is knowing, they’ll perceive it. If not, they could have mismatched expectations of you within the first place, and it’s finest to not burden your self with such expectations (see #6).

3. Give attention to the request, not the individual

One of many causes I struggled with saying no previously was that I didn’t need to reject the individual. My mother wasn’t there for me once I was a baby (in that she was emotionally vacant as an individual), and that made me need to be there for others. Nevertheless, as I shared above, saying sure to everybody made me burn out. I used to be totally drained and depressing.

In studying to say no, I realized to give attention to the request and never the individual. That means, as an alternative of feeling obligated to say sure as a result of I used to be afraid to let the individual down, I realized to have a look at the request and assess if it’s a match with my plans. Is that this one thing I can realistically do? Is that this one thing I can afford to do proper now? In gentle of all of the issues on my to-do listing, can I do that with out compromising on my different to-dos?

If the reply is a “no,” then I’ll reject it. It’s not in regards to the individual. It’s nothing private. It’s merely in regards to the request itself, and the request merely isn’t one thing I can fulfill in the mean time. While you assessment requests as they’re, you objectively reject requests which are incompatible with you, versus forcing your self to say sure simply to make folks joyful.

4. Be optimistic

We’ve been taught to affiliate no with negativity, and that saying no will result in battle. Nevertheless it is attainable to say “no” and keep a harmonious relationship. It’s about the way you do it.

To begin off, cease associating “no” with negativity. Notice that it’s half and parcel of human communication. While you see “no” as a foul factor, this adverse vitality will inadvertently be expressed in your response. There’s no must really feel dangerous, responsible, or fear in regards to the different individual’s emotions (excessively). This doesn’t imply that you have to be tactless in your reply, however that you shouldn’t obsess over how others will really feel.

Subsequent, when saying “no,” clarify your place calmly. Let the individual know that you simply recognize his/her invite/request however you’ll be able to’t take it on because of [X]. Maybe you might have conflicting priorities, or you might have one thing on, otherwise you merely don’t have any time. You’ll love to assist or get entangled if attainable, however it’s not one thing you’ll be able to afford to do now.

Despite the fact that you’re rejecting the individual’s request, preserve the choices open for the longer term. Let the individual know that you may at all times reconnect down the street to fulfill, collaborate, focus on potentialities, and so forth.

5. Give an alternate

That is optionally available, but when of an alternate, share it. For instance, if of somebody who might help him/her, then share the contact (with the individual’s permission in fact). This could solely be executed for those who occur to know an alternate, to not compensate for not saying sure. You aren’t answerable for discovering options for the opposite individual.

6. Don’t make your self answerable for others’ emotions

One other large cause why I resisted saying no previously was that I didn’t need to make others really feel dangerous. I felt answerable for how others would really feel, and I didn’t need others to be sad.

The consequence was that I might bend over backward simply to make others joyful. I spent numerous late nights catching up on work as I put others’ wants earlier than myself and solely had time for my very own stuff at evening. This was horrible for my well being and well-being.

Sooner or later, we have to draw a line between serving to others and serving to ourselves. To be of service to others, we have to shield our well being and happiness. Don’t make your self answerable for others’ emotions, particularly if they have a tendency to reply negatively to your “no’s,” count on that you have to be there for them (when you haven’t any obligation to one another), and don’t appear to take no for a solution. If the individual accepts your “no,” nice; if not, then too dangerous. Do what you’ll be able to, then transfer on if it’s past what you’ll be able to supply… which leads me to level #7.

7. Be able to let go

If the individual is disrespectful of your wants and expects that you need to at all times say sure, then you definitely may need to re-evaluate the connection.

Too usually we’re taught to keep up concord in any respect prices, which is why we dislike saying no — we don’t need to create battle. That is actually true of my tradition, the place folks say sure although they disagree with one thing, solely to harbor resentment and complain about it afterward.

However when a relationship is draining you, it’s important to ask your self if this connection is what you need. In a wholesome relationship, each events help one another. It’s not one the place one social gathering is continually giving and giving whereas the opposite individual retains asking and taking.

After I consider the relationships that drain me, they’re those the place I’m not my actual self, the place I’m anticipated to say sure and the opposite social gathering is sad if I say no. For such relationships, the opposite individual is sad so long as there’s a “no” — it doesn’t matter how the “no” is claimed because the individual merely expects a “sure.”

For those who’re coping with such an individual, the query to you is, is that this relationship price maintaining?

  • If no, then it’s easy — merely let go of it.
  • If this is a crucial relationship to you, then let the individual learn about this challenge. It’s attainable that they aren’t conscious of what they’re doing, and an open, trustworthy dialog will open their eyes to it.

So as an alternative of worrying about saying no to somebody who can not settle for the “no,” which isn’t the actual drawback, you tackle the foundation challenge — that you simply’re in a connection the place you’re anticipated to be a giver. Within the means of doing so, you take away relationships which are poisonous and unhealthy. Maybe within the means of doing this, you strengthen your relationship with him/her. As a result of now you might be overtly trustworthy with him/her and say sure or no as you need, with out feeling guilt, worry, or hesitation — which is what saying no needs to be about.

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