A lot of people have a hard time saying “No.” They say “Yes” to favors, asks for help, additional services, etc. even though everything inside them then screams “no – don’t agree to that!” No wonder they end up having hard time managing their time. Have you ever been in this situation? Saying “yes” to something you really wanted to say “no” to?
Why do you have such a hard time saying “NO”?
It’s because people aren’t loners, we live in groups. And thus, we want to be approved by our environment. Included, not excluded. Consequently, we act in ways that favor social approval; one of them is saying “Yes” to other people’s requests.
Such a need for social approval fosters our feelings of wanting to:
- be part of the group (socially accepted),
- be a team player (cooperation),
- do what we can to avoid ostracism, criticism, and exclusion,
- care about other people’s opinion of us,
- improve our self-esteem by popularity (reputation).
As you can see, it’s easy to go overboard with “yes.” The need for social acceptance, being liked or well thought of by others could take over your life. The trap, though here is that if you overcommit with “Yes’s” too much, you end up saying “No” to personal priorities and can miss out on opportunities as well. You can end up stressed, anxious, and develop regrets over having to compromise to honor all your commitments. And what good such feelings bring on you or others?
So, what can you do then to start saying “No” more often, gain more time to work on achieving your goals, and improve your business? Here are five strategies to help you do that.
1. Be clear on your priorities.
When you clearly define priorities and goals and take action on them, you set boundaries for yourself and start utilizing your time more effectively. That’s why you’ll be able to assess if the request coming from the other person aligns with your goals or not. As such it’s more natural to decline: “Your idea sounds great politely! It’s just that it doesn’t align with my priorities this month. Maybe X can help (you can refer then to a person to someone whose priorities might be aligned with the request)?”
2. Stop & listen first
Instead of just saying “Yes” to all incoming requests, partner with requesters to fully understand the ask, and maybe you decide together what makes sense for you to do, and in what time frame. For example, if your client is asking for a “small favor” right away, understand first if indeed it’s small and you can fit it into your current schedule. If it’s Big Work on the other hand then politely mention that this wasn’t part of the original agreement and that you can quote the job. Then upon approval agree on a timeframe that will work for both.
3. Understand & change your beliefs if needed
There is a reason behind every action. Identify the beliefs that lead you to say “yes” often. Perhaps you believe that saying “no” makes you look bad or that you’ll be rejected by the person asking. Then write down all the consequences saying “yes” all the time would have on your life, business and well-being. Next, create more powerful beliefs. For example, excellent quality is more important than quantity. Saying “no” is respectable when it comes from the right place. People respect others who respect themselves.
4. Balance “Yes” & “No”
When you say “yes” to what is in front of you, you’re saying “no” to something else that might be more important but less visible. For a few days, try assessing what you’d be giving up and if it is worth it. Improving your services or products? Speaking engagement? Potential client meeting? Your family? The exercise? If it’s worth the loss, then go for it with your arms wide open. When you continually make such conscious decisions, you can balance what you’re saying “yes” and “no” to overtime.
5. Throw the guilt out the window
Guilt is often the culprit that causes us to say “yes” more often than “no.” We don’t want to disappoint people. If you are guilty of feeling bad when you say “no,” recognize this. Write the word on a sticky note and stick somewhere you can see often. Such visual on what’s driving your decisions to say “yes” can help rewire your brain to say “no” more often.
And if you can’t quit saying “yes” cold turkey, try changing your habit through baby steps. For example, by offering the alternative to the ask: “I’m not able to help you with the move the entire weekend but can come over on Saturday for a couple of hours and help you pack.”
All in all, learning to say “no” when it aligns with your goals and values can be liberating and eye-opening.
You’ll have more time to devote to activities that are important to you (your business and life). You’ll end up with less stress, anger, or resentment. You’ll have more energy, optimism, and a greater sense of control over your time and life.
Remember, we only have a finite number of years to live. Therefore, don’t be afraid to take control of your time so you can live your life to the fullest.
And if you need help in practicing how to say no politely and professionally without sounding rude, I have prepared for you a list with 39 Ways to Respectfully Say “NO.” Click here to download it so you can start practicing now!