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The Ability to Say NO is the Power to do What Matters

You can’t say YES to everything and excel at anything.

Most people don’t enjoy saying NO to their boss, colleagues, or employees. But a world without ‘NO’ is filled with distraction, chaos, frustration, and burnout.


Pressure to say YES is ultimately about you, even when your boss is a pushy jerk. You’re a people-pleaser. Maybe urgencies have replaced values. (We’ve all been there.)

Only those who know who they are can say NO with grace.

The ability to say NO is the power to create, pursue, and protect priorities.

Too many yeses:

Maybe it’s good to feel bad about saying NO.

Feeling bad about saying NO reflects your desire to please, to get ahead, to be supportive, and to contribute.

Realize …

You aren’t serving well when saying YES dilutes impact, distracts focus, and lowers quality of work.

Saying YES when you should say NO means:

  1. Someone else controls your calendar.
  2. Follow-through is crisis management.
  3. Current urgencies replace priorities.
  4. Planned results get pushed to back burners.
  5. Quality of work goes down. You either do a few things well or you do nothing well.
  6. Foot-dragging becomes a strategy for self-expression.
  7. You feel powerless.

The inability to say NO creates helplessness, misery, and dissatisfaction. When you can’t say NO, you find passive aggressive strategies to control your schedule.

7 ways to say NO like a leader:

  1. Have a reputation for being helpful, flexible, and hardworking.
  2. Before you say YES, ask for a deadline. Sometimes we impose unnecessary time pressure on ourselves.
  3. Explain your current projects and say, “I’m concerned about getting things done on time. Could you help me understand your priorities?”
  4. Be kind, even if it feels awkward. Defensiveness makes you harsh.
  5. Declare your intention to be a YES-Person.
  6. Learn how to delegate effectively.
  7. Be calm, but firm.

What prevents people from saying NO?

What suggestions do you have for saying NO like a leader?

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