Ten Ways to Say Yes to Saying No
Saying no feels like a door closing. But, those who can’t say no end up over-committed, overwhelmed, and ineffective.
Saying no is the first step toward freedom for someone who says yes too much.
- Keeps options open.
- Reflects positive attitude.
- Explores opportunity.
- Moves forward.
Too many yeses cause:
- Missed deadlines.
- Mediocre results.
- Neglected relationships.
- Diluted impact.
- Letting teams down.
- Persistent fatigue.
No protects success.
- Protects energy
- Enables focus.
- Limits distraction.
The quickest way to radically improve life and leadership, for those addicted to yes, is saying no.
A good no:
- Makes room for priorities.
- Keeps you living in your strengths.
- Opens a door.
Those who can’t say no are doomed to frustration and mediocrity.
- Don’t fully book. Leave open spaces on your calendar.
- Practice saying no with friends. Get together and say, “Lets learn how to say no.”
- Choose a no statement that feels good to you. “I’d love to but I can’t.”
- Say yes selectively. Ask yourself, “Do I love this, or, am I tolerating it?”
- Say no sooner rather than later. It’s hard to say no after you said yes.
- Identify your values. Say to yourself, “That’s not important to me.”
- Do more of what fulfills.
- Stop saying, “If I can just get through this … things will be better.”
- Give yourself space. When you feel pressure to say yes, say, “Let me think about it.” But, realize a delay keeps issues on your plate.
- Go ahead and explain yourself. “I’d love to say yes, but ….”
Pressured to say yes:
Leaders who can’t say no are pushed around by people and opportunities.
People who pressure you to say yes are manipulators. Once you start saying yes, they’ll keep expecting you to say yes. Stand your ground or be a doormat.
How can leaders learn to say no?
Brilliant article title today! Not changing a word for my tweet out!
just saw your Pinterest page.
Very impressive set of photo slides in your collection.
Fine line between the two choices, often times easier said then done when dealing with customers who want everything for nothing. Indeed you have the processes identified to make things more manageable with the no’s!
Thanks Tim. You bring up one of the stickiest situations. Saying no to customers. Maybe someone will help us out on that one.
Customers come to us with ideas and plans, we have to come up with solutions, yes’s, costs and occasional No’s often times based on site requirements which do not exist. I try to tread lightly with “No” responses, customers want solutions!
Well the thing is if they do not already know how to do this they are not leaders.
People may be in positions where they have temporary influence over others.
That does not make them a Leader.
Mean no disrespect Dan but sometimes it feels the term Leader is thrown around too loosely. Wanna be Leaders are not Leaders.
Feel that word might serve everyone concerned when only used in terms of people who actually are actually LEADING others.
Not talking about confused folks with a title and position.
EA. oh yeah when one knows thyself, has their own house in order a process is in place to make decisions. Yes, no decisions included. Leaders do this and understand what I am saying here, others who that does not make sense to, you do the math.
Thanks Scott. I’m glad you distinguish between actual leaders and positional leaders. The idea that actual leaders are good at saying no is off target.
Scott, I would invite you to consider that those that can’t say ‘no’ may be leaders, they just aren’t as effective as they can be. Often, I find that it takes people some time to learn to say ‘no’ so they are comfortable.
Love the kind tone, Jim.
Hi Jim, deeply appreciate your kind tone too as it struck me!!!!
What I guess I am saying Jim is that people learning to lead are not Leaders. They are Leaders in training. Only one thing needs to determined if one is a Leader or a poser??? Followers. Following by conscious choice, period.
It is like learning to fly and flying.
See words matter, distinctions matter. Clarity matters.
People are either Directed Specifics or Wandering Generalities.
If I am a Leader all this makes perfect sense.
If I am Leader in training it makes sense cause I know I am not there yet.
If I am an idiot poser with a title and no followers this probably pisses me off!!!! Lol
Great thing pissed off posers….hang in there keep at it you are on the right track especially when you understand why it pisses you off.
Truth is really cool stuff!! It will set you free but first it is gonna piss you off.
Then 3 Distinct stages
2. Violently opposed
3. Accepted as self evident
It is just the way it is. Just think of flat screen TV’s. computers, CDs
Everything new introduced follow this path.
In any case deeply appreciate your kind and thoughtful, insightful thoughts and tone.
Especially that you took some of your valuable time to share what you deeply felt would be useful to me. And is.
Deeply appreciative of your sacrifice for me, an indication there is a True Leader in the house!!
Absolutely Shane!!!!! I agree!!!! We are all leading ourselves, some better than others….right?? Hehe
Kinda was talking about that above when talking about a person having their own house in order, before looking to have any followers.
Just great though the more clearly defined Leadership them maybe more accurately instead of more loosely.
I mean a duckling IS NOT A DUCK….YET.
So referring loosely allows ducklings to think Dan is sharing his awesome wisdom with them. One day maybe but not yet!
For me a very very strong indicator is defining clearly knowing words distinguish meanings. So clear precise language matters and is a sign for me of TRUE Leadership.
I mean saying I am going down to the store is something different than if I say I am going up to the store.
Words are here for a reason, to communicate. If one does not choose their words carefully to express exactly what they mean????
Not Leadership in my opinion
Great thing is though the discussion, conversation could cause some to think and have an a-ha moments.
Others will just scratch their heads!!!
Hey Scott, I have a friend that told me he was not a leader. I said, “You get out of bed every morning, you decide what you are going to do that day, don’t you?” Leading yourself maybe the toughest lead of all. Even a leader of one is a leader in my book. Just my 1 and half cents worth….. -Shane
Dan, great stuff! Of the people I coach, there are a number that fall in this category. When I ask them “What might you stop doing that would help you be more effective?” they say, learning to say ‘no’, I just don’t know how. The learning how is by doing. We pick those areas that are easier (less conflict, people who aren’t as important to them, etc.) and then they just say no. Invariably, they learn it isn’t all that bad, and they learn that at the core is a statement of how they are for themselves. Saying ‘no’ helps them to retain energy and be more effective in what they’ve chosen to say ‘yes’ to. Knowing/feeling that they are caring for themselves in a better way is often great motivation to expand the ‘no’s’
Whoops…should have been “care for themselves” not “are for themselves” – although on some level it still works. 🙂
Thanks Jim. Try no in small bite-size pieces.
“Learning how is by doing.” –>> Gold!
I fully agree with the benefits of saying no and I’m still learning to do this! I’m definitely reblogging your post!
Thanks Leigh. I’m still learning too. It’s great to share the leadership journey with you.
They call this the “Scotty Factor” in Star Trek … very good advice … he was a very knowledgeable fictional character.
Thanks Michael. Beam me up, Scotty.
Ever had a boss without a filter? I have and it was difficult but ultimately rewarding to respectfully decline requests for activities that had no value or, better still, helping to recast these to be more value adding. Risky, but rewarding. What I learned from these leaders was the need for filters. So, as leaders I think we need to develop/apply/hone appropriate filters to protect us and our staff from non-value adding activities, thus hopefully limiting the need for them to say “no”. Ultimately, though I agree that saying no is a skill that we all need at some point. Great post Dan!
Thanks Sam. Love the idea of creating an environment where people don’t have to say no to us. I wonder what the downside of this is?
I understand your point, but I don’t entirely agree. As a business leader part of your responsibility is to create and exploit opportunities. I’d much rather be in a position of having to figure out how to get all the work done, than trying to figure out how to make the phone ring.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to lay down and capitulate to those trying to take advantage, or to those who demand, yet don’t want to pay. I say no to projects/work that bore me or I have no interest in, which frees me to perform the projects I enjoy.
Thanks John. I’m glad you don’t entirely agree. I seldom entirely agree with myself.
Here’s what I think. There are “yes” people and “no” people. I’m a “yes” person. “Yes” is my default position. Every time it is humanly possible I say yes. Where does that leave me? Overcommitted and sometimes resentful. Sometimes not accomplishing my own goals because I’m working on fulfilling the goals of others.
I need all the saying-no-kindly advice I can get. Thanks for the help.
Thanks Dauna. Maybe all the yes and no people need to get together and learn from each other?
PS … I’m a yes person, too.
Hello! Good morning from CT! I appreciate this column today. Great advice and sometimes it is good to have an almost daily reminder of this.
Thanks Your…. Basically, that’s the goal, a daily leadership reminder to keep growing.
Learning to say “no” to the wrong things is like learning to say “yes” to the right things. I don’t think of myself as saying “no”, even though I say it a lot. I’m really saying yes to what is critical to us.
And as much as I love the tips, I have to say that saying “I’d love to, but I can’t” sounds like weasel words to me. I think it’s important for leaders to be direct and transparent. Don’t couch your words and don’t hide behind them. If you mean no, say no. If you can’t sign up for saying no, you’re not ready to lead.
Thanks Alf. Love your yes approach to saying no. Very helpful.
I’m with you, transparency is better than weaseling. For some of us, including me, I love saying yes, so I can make a statement like, “I’d love to…” with integrity.
Often, a struggle for me in saying “no” is the unspoken or perhaps explicit organizational expectations that saying no “is not what we do…”. There is almost a another layer to the topic of saying no, that needs to be examined and addressed as we are developing the skill noted by Dan in the article. I’m still working on this skill, and haven’t made it there yet!
Thanks Brian. Great observation. When bosses and higher-ups expect everyone to say yes it’s pretty darn hard to say no. It’s a culture thing. Frankly, permission to say no elevates the status of the people saying it. I wonder if a culture of disempowerment is the one that always expects yes.
I think learning to say no can first be accomplished by saying, :”Let me think about it.” For those (like I used to be) who always say “yes”, it is hard to switch to “no.” However, “let me think about it” leaves open either the yes or no response. It is harder to change a “yes” to a “no” than a “no” to a “yes.” “Let me think about it” does two things – it gives me more time to really look at my priorities and make a truly informed decision and it lets the other person know that I care enough to take this seriously and make a true commitment. Just be sure to get back to the person in a timely fashion.
Thanks pm… I can see where this really helps people with the need to please. Just remember that “let me think about it” means it’s one more thing still on the plate.
Love the idea that it’s easier to reverse a no than a yes. “I’ve reconsidered and I can say yes” is so much easier than “I”ve reconsidered and I have to say no.”
Saying “No” now does not mean it will be no forever. Circumstances change. Vision is fine tuned. What is not appropriate today might be later. “Makes room for priorities.” So true. Does this request fit what God has called me to do now?
“correct the person to protect the program”…Dan your insights support so many core principles of creating a healthy, honest relationship! Keep it coming. So many “thought leaders” focus on why and what…your insights give us HOW.
Outstanding advise Dan! Too often we spend too much time wanting to please others and fail to recognize (at least early on) that “our cup runneth over” and we are destin to mediocracy!
Very good article. However, left out is the “maybe.” As difficult as it may be at the appropriate time for the leader to say “no” it is “maybe” that can create organizational harm. When “maybe” is used there is no apparent direction and hope prevails for a future “yes.” Unfortunately, moving on from “maybe” is difficult and ultimately becomes a liability for future organizational growth and focus. I have said tweeted it before “managers say maybe, leaders say no.”
I’ve always been a “yes but” guy. Yes, we can do that, but it will stop all work on project X – is that what you want? Yes, we can do that, but it won’t solve the problem because….
Helps others understand priorities and makes them part of the resolution.
Agree, nothing to add!
Yes, I agree that too many yeses deviates and makes us weak. It is important for anyone to know when to say “Yes” and when to say “no”. And in fact is not easy to learn such skill. I also feel that too many yeses make us fearful. Many times this fear can come out of respect. When we respect someone, we are not tuned to say No in general. So, learning to say No is important. Saying yes frequently to everyone can also make us to compromise. It means we feel obliged when we say yes to someone.
There is also one aspect to saying yes. When we do not want to make others unhappy and expect something in future or at present, we tend to avoid saying no to the person. So, How can leaders learn to say no can be based on our perception towards respect, expectation and belief. Respecting is good but too much respect can deviate us. Similarly when we expect much and have less belief in our potential, then we are in more compromising state.
Very Good Article. In Today corporate world, saying No is like a offence. While people talk about realities of situations about targets to achieve, supervisors ask them to consider it as a fifth step, and prepare an action plan as a first step for expected targets. No room for saying “No”. Its an art how to say No in such situations.
well in my opinion, saying yes will definitely improve you but “no” maintains your legacy individualism
Saying no is more of a leader than saying yes. Constantly saying yes makes you a Yes Man.
Great blog my friend and a hard hitting true in there!
Thank you. Again. Great, and timely, post.
Next week a new M&O contractor will be taking over the government project I’m involved with at the moment. The previous M&O contractor had the contract for over 20 years and had achieved greater than 90+% award fee every quarter, but lost the contract based on a proposed “Management Approach.” Even though there are a plethora of words devoted to the reason for losing the contract from the government, GAO and in the end a judge, I believe, in many respects, the loss can be attributed to a CEO and his executive staff failing to use or even have the word “No” in their vocabulary.
Drawing upon David McClelland’s Motivation Model of Achievement, Affiliation and Power, the above CEO and a number of his executives are highly motivated by Affiliation, which has led to the obsessive use of the word “Yes” in responding to everything the client requested.
Additionally, this highly Affiliation motivated CEO and his executive staff have allowed a climate of holding no one accountable for their behavior to metastasize throughout the organization, unless, of course, you were someone the CEO or his Executive staff did not like, then you would be fired for misbehaving.
By wanting to be liked by those the CEO and his executive staff interact with, the default response to anything the client asked was “Of course we can do that for you.” By ignoring bad behavior, this same CEO and his executive staff believed everyone worshiped them, when, in fact, many loath the bad behavior of their colleagues, “Why do they get away with not following the rules?” and wasted productive time complaining about the CEO’s and executive staff’s behaviors.
Indeed, the word “Yes” is a most often and appropriately used response in client interactions, but a prudent use of the word “No” needs to be part of the dialog also, if for no other reason than to control the unintended consequences of always saying “Yes” to the client and employees in the company.
I struggle with saying No all the time. But, like you say, you have to look at it as a measure that prevents becoming over-committed, over-worked, and over-stressed.
Just say it. Have a basic filter that helps you know what to say “YES” to and if you run the request through the filter and it doesn’t make the cut, just say no. Be polite. Even explain your filtering process. But bottom line, just say no. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
My friend is very domineering and always expects me to say yes . Which I find myself doing . For me to say yes is for my friend to always gets what she wants , which I have now realised. I want to say no to her doing and saying things for her benefit . I have always had trouble saying no and my friend and she knows this and I feel as though I’m just her friend for when she wants money or something for herself .Thankyou for reading .
I have found reading the way that always saying yes all the time , does cause anxiety and frustration and I’ve just thought that all I’m doing with my kindness that I’m making myself upset and down and making making them happy .
Its not going to be easy but if people are my true friends then they will be OK if they are not true friends , I will soon know who’s a real friend or not .