How to Say No and Still Get Where You Want to Go

Leaders who can’t say no are spread thin and overwhelmed.

Pleasers can’t say no. Ultimately everyone is unhappy.

Southwest Airlines achieved success by saying no to traditional expectations like reserved seats, baggage transfer, and hot meals. Instead they said yes to fun experiences and frequent flights at low cost.

Meaningful work requires saying no.

3 Insights from The Power of a Positive No:

  1. All good No’s are in service to a higher Yes.
  2. The right No is not the opposite of love but comes from love and grows toward love.
  3. There are three “A”s that trap us from getting to the positive No;
    • Accommodating, which is saying Yes when we want to say No.
    • Attacking, which is saying No poorly.
    • Avoiding, which is saying nothing at all.

How to say NO:

  1. I would love to but I can’t.
  2. I have a policy that I don’t … .
  3. I’m currently focused on XYZ, so I can’t.
  4. I need to say no this time.
  5. I love what you’re doing, but I can’t participate this time.

5 guidelines for saying no:

  1. Be brief. The more you talk the worse it gets.
  2. Be direct.
  3. Be firm.
  4. Don’t make excuses.
  5. Maintain a kind open spirit.


Practice saying no with a friend or trusted colleague.

You’ll end up controlled by guilt, overreacting, and saying yes when you should say no, if you haven’t practiced saying no.

NO frees you to do what matters.

Focus on YES:

Saying no – apart from a powerful yes – yields nothing but emptiness.

I cringe when people say they’re learning to say no. It’s not that we don’t need to learn this skill. But what is your YES?

Learning to say No is really about finding a meaningful YES.

A no without a yes gets you nowhere.

How might leaders say no?

How might saying yes free leaders to say no?