Learning To Say No Without Explaining Yourself

The Freeing Power Of Learning To Say No

I don’t know about you, but I have always had a hard time saying “no”, especially to people who I am close to or who I know are super deserving of my time and help. When you start your own business, you soon realise that to be successful at what you do, you sometimes have to be a little selfish and focus on your own priorities, and of course if you have a business you need to learn about things like the benefits and compensation management you can offer for your employees.

One thing you will notice that all high achievers have in common is that behind every accomplishment is a long list of things they didn’t do. They may be very talented, but they’re not magicians. They don’t have an infinite amount of time and so they learn early on that reaching their goals and getting things done often means saying “no”.

It is not just those at the top of their league that can benefit from saying “no”. In our everyday lives most of us find saying “no” tough, in particular women. It may be helping your friend on the weekend move, counsel your colleague after work one night or help volunteer at your child’s school fundraiser. You may be asked to put in a few extra hours at work, loan some money to a close friend or mind someone’s pet while they enjoy a tropical holiday. These are all things that you would happily do but it often results in you being stretched thinly trying to meet other people’s needs. In turn we end up feeling stressed and exhausted and we lose sight of our priorities.

I can honestly tell you though, when you learn to say “no” there is a freeing power attached to it. Saying “yes” all the time adds extra stress to your life. It eats into your precious leisure time. It shortens your time focusing on your own goals. It can lead to less sleep and less exercise. It can increase your blood pressure, decrease your immune system and lead to an unhealthy diet. It also means you may not have the opportunity to say “yes” to the really important things.

When you learn to say “no”, you acknowledge that your time is valuable and that in itself is a pretty powerful thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying never say “yes”. You should say “yes”. It opens the doors to opportunities, for you to meet new people or gives you the chance to work for a meaningful cause, not to mention the impact you will have on your friend’s life. But, just know when to do so. Don’t say “yes” when you are struggling to balance or meet your own deadline. Don’t say “yes” when you are tight on money or have other things planned. Say “yes” when it really works for you too!

Saying “no” also doesn’t mean that you are nasty or that you are going to ruin a friendship. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be asked again (even if deep down that is what you are hoping for!) or that you will be viewed as selfish either. The trick is to really consider how you say “no”.


Have the courtesy to listen

People don’t often ask for something unless it is really important to them. While that doesn’t give them the green light to have you at their service, it does mean they are requesting your help because they really need it. And for some people asking for help is as difficult as saying “no”. So have the courtesy to really listen to what they are asking. Don’t send a half-distracted email or nod mindless at them in fake sympathy. Really listen to their request even if you already have in your head that you are going to say “no”.


Establish your priorities
Knowing your priorities or goals provides you with the strength and focus to decide whether saying “yes” will distract you or inhibit you. You then have the opportunity to respond intelligently to the request and not have some vague excuse why you can’t help out.


Be fast and firm with your response
Don’t dither about working up the courage to say “no”. Upon reading or hearing the request, if you instantly know it is going to negatively impact on your time or mean helping will result in being over stressed and over stretched, tell them. This gives them the opportunity to seek assistance from someone else. Keep in mind though being too hasty can lead to you making the wrong decision. It’s OK for you to tell the person you will come back to them shortly.


The reality is, every time you are saying “no” to something that is not important to you, you are saying “yes” to something that really is. Stop worrying about hurting someone else’s feelings and ensure your priorities are in check.


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