Strategies to Say No

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Why is it so hard to say “no”

In this Linked In article, I share why saying “no” is so hard – often a fear of losing something such as respect, relationships, money, or opportunities. With any obstacle, however, it can be overcome with a good plan. Here are some strategies to get better at saying “no.”

What is your “yes” and believing in it

Consider your why for saying “no”. What is it that you are saying “yes” to for yourself when you say “no” to someone else? Do you want to say “no” someone else’s agenda so that you can say “yes” to your career goals, to spending more time with your family, to saving money for paying off loans or a relaxing trip, or to your own comfort and peace? Make a list of those reasons. Read them out loud. Believe in them. They matter. Because you matter.

Practice saying “no”

So now it’s easy to say “no”. In your mind. But how do you bravely say “no” when it has to be audible to a set of ears to hear or visible to a set of eyes to read? Practice! Say “no” to little things – grocery store extras that you don’t need, invitations that you aren’t interested in, or credit card application at TJ Maxx or Home Goods. Practice with a friend and role play. Say “no” outloud when the stakes aren’t high, when you take fear out of the situation. Firmly state what you are saying “no” to and let your words roll.

Go slow

If you have a hard time saying “no” in the moment, then buy yourself some time to think about it, practice it, and to talk to friends and mentors. It’s beneficial for everyone if you say “no” quickly – better for you so you can move on with life and free up mental capacity for ten million other things, and better for the other person so they can move on with finding someone else to say “yes” to what they need. However, a slow “no” is better than a quick “yes” that you regret later. If you can get the word “no” out for now, then try “let me think about it” or “I’ll get back to you on that”, and set a time frame for responding. Then back to the steps above to review what you are saying “yes” to for yourself and practice saying “no”.

Turning the no into a yes for the other person

Sometimes the “no” is just a “no,” especially for things that are not as important or to people who you don’t mind severing a relationship with. If that is not the case and you want to continue to have a connection with this person, then offer a “yes” that is also a “yes for you. “No” you can’t serve on that committee or speak at that conference, but here are a few people you recommend for it. “No” you can’t commit to that deadline, but here is what you can commit to without sacrificing quality. “No” you can’t volunteer on that day, but this is important to you and here is how you can contribute (e.g. for my daughter’s school event, I just volunteered for a different day).

YES to a successful future

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More resources for saying “no”

I have so many wins from saying “no,” while still maintaining the connections I want to keep. Here is a snippet of those stories.

Below are some books that I have been or are on my list to read to help myself and others say “no.” The Yes-No-Yes strategy I shared above is based on The Power of A Positive No.