Leaders: How to Grow a Spine and Say NO

Just Say No

We all have a tendency to overload our schedule; to put too much on our plate. We do this because it is so much easier to say “yes” than it is to say “no.”

But when we say “yes” too much, what does this underlying message say about us?

The YES and NO of the Matter

Let’s look at what saying “yes” too much could be telling others.

Saying “yes” could mean that:

  • You simply want to help out; that you don’t want to disappoint others.
  • You confirm to another’s request by agreeing to what they are asking.
  • You are trying to avoid conflict or negative consequences.
  • You are afraid of potentially missing out on opportunities by saying no.

As for me, I have known for years that I was afraid to say NO.  I didn’t really know how to say NO and make it stick. And, I never really understood the liberating power that this two-letter word carried until years later!

What are you telling yourself when you say yes all the time to others?

The Realities of Saying “Yes”

According to a recent post I found online:

  • When you say “yes” to something you don’t enjoy, you are putting yourself in the position of essentially saying “no” to things you love.
  • When you say “yes” to a job you don’t love, you are putting yourself in the position of essentially saying “no” to your dreams.
  • When you say yes to working overtime, you are putting yourself in the position of essentially saying “no” to your family or social life.

When you say yes to others, you are potentially saying “no” to peace of mind.

The Realities of NOT Saying No

Saying yes all the time could reveal you have not clarified your own intentions. Other people’s goals become more important. The best way to understand why you should or should not say NO is to ask your-self these questions:

  1. Does what I am being asked to do go against my values?
  2. Will it create internal conflict?
  3. Will the end result lead to a less desirable outcome that is out of alignment with my highest intentions?

Other realities of not saying NO; you may lack time management and organizational skills. You may have low self-esteem; you don’t value your time or yourself. If self-worth is low, then you don’t respect yourself, or your dreams and aspirations.

“If you don’t respect the things that mean the most to you, who will?

Know When to Say No

Often times when you are faced with the decision to say no, how do you know which activities to say no to and which activities to focus your attention on?

Here are some tips to help keep things in perspective:

The focal point should matter most to you

Look at your calendar, do you have time to fit something in? If you do, great! But if not, then pass.

Consider the yes-to-stress ratio 

How much of a time commitment is this new endeavor going to add to your schedule? If it’s a couple hours out of your day for one day, that is different from a long-term strategic plan that may require weeks of planning.

Get rid of the guilt 

Deciding to help should not be based on guilt or obligation, that only adds stress and feelings of resentment.

Sleep on it

Sleeping on a decision to help someone, gives you time to think about every aspect of how this request will or will not fit into your already full schedule.

Ways to Say NO

Just Say NoThe one thing you don’t want to do is avoid the person requesting your time, all this does is create more stress. The first time you say NO to someone, you may be surprised at how easy it is.

You may also be surprised at how understanding other people are when you say no.

Other people will respect you more when they know how much you value your time.

If saying NO is something new to you, then try these simple phrases:

  • I can’t commit to this; I have other priorities at this time. How about reconnecting on this day at this time to discuss options?
  • I will not be contributing to the gift for so and so; I don’t think our relationship has reached the gifting level.
  • Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.
  • This is not a good fit for me but I know who would be a perfect fit for this!
  • No, I can’t!

“You can always rephrase the request so that it is in alignment with your ideals and then say, “That’s a Brilliant Idea!”

The Power Behind Those Two Letters: N O!

According to the Mayo Clinic there is a lot of power in the word NO. Don’t be intimidated by the word NO, and be careful not to substitute NO with I’m not sure or I don’t think I can. When you do, you transfer power back to the other person.

Always be brief, honest, respectful, and be ready to repeat yourself. It’s not always going to be easy to say NO. Learning and practicing to say NO will help you manage your time better and reduce stress levels.

According to Success Magazine,

“Learning how to say “NO” to the smaller tasks in life creates a path to freedom and success, keeping your schedule free from mental clutter; and allowing you to focus your attention on the things you value most, that creates a sense of purpose and fulfillment in your life.”


How do you say NO and make it stick? When do you say NO and what strategies do you use? What are some of your most successful ways to say NO? I’d love to hear your comments and experiences with saying NO!


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Debra Olejownik
Debra Olejownik is a consultant with DJC Core Consulting & Support Services, LLC
She helps clients identify comprehensive solutions to problems that inspires change
Email |  LinkedIn | TwitterWeb

Image Sources: women-journal.com


One response to “Leaders: How to Grow a Spine and Say NO

  1. Nice article. It applies to personal life as well. Those who can’t say no when they want to are not being true to themselves.


Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s