How To Say No

Do you find it hard to say no? Do you say yes too quickly and end up regretting it? Does saying yes to others mean saying no to yourself?

It is very hard to say no isn’t it. Why?

Because we want to be nice, be kind and be helpful. We want to support our loved ones, assist our friends and collaborate with our teammates. We don’t want to miss out, be left out or left behind. And the bottom line is sometimes we don’t have a choice, we have to say yes. I mean is our boss really asking when they ask, do we really have an option? Possibly, probably, positively not.

But what happens when saying yes to someone else means saying no to you. What happens when helping others leaves you depleted, exhausted and running on empty. What happens when you give so much away you are left with nothing for yourself.

How can we say no in a good way. Hopefully these three approaches below can help.

The invisible no           

This is great because you are saying no but the other person doesn’t realise it. Let’s imagine someone asks you to meet, what you do is be very clever with how you say yes. If they want to meet for an hour you say 45 minutes (giving you 15 mins back). If they want to meet weekly, make it every 10 days or 2 weeks. If they want you to commit to something three times a week make it two times. With all these scenarios you are giving yourself back some time. You are stretching.

Stretching is the process of creating more space for you so you don’t get overwhelmed by the ask. It is about re-negotiating the details.  It is about challenging the norm and making your calendar work for you.

The principled no

study in the Journal of Consumer Research by Professor Patrick and Henrik Hagtvedt found that saying “I don’t” as opposed to “I can’t” allowed people to remove themselves from unwanted commitments.

While “I can’t” sounds like an excuse that’s up for debate, “I don’t” implies you’ve established certain rules for yourself, suggesting belief and stability. And since it is personal, it also maintains the social connection humans crave.

For example, your friend asks you to help them move to a new house this weekend. If you say ‘I can’t’ they  will question why. But if you say ‘I don’t work on weekends as that is my time with my children’ they will have a hard time arguing with that.

This is an accepted way to say no based on your principles and values.

Don’t forget the P.S.

Have you ever been asked to do something by someone, spent hours getting it perfect only for them to glance over it or spend only a few minutes admiring or appreciating your effort?


Because you believed the task was very important and required your best work yet in reality a rough idea or a good enough outcome would have been ok.

With that in mind next time you are asked to do something make sure you discuss the level of detail and effort required ( The  P.S. – Perfection Standard ). Taking the time to understand what the work will be used for, and the level of perfection needed can save you huge amounts of time.



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