How to Say “No” More Easily

If there’s one challenge most of us share, it’s saying no.

Saying no to a client’s request for a fast turnaround.

Saying no to a project fee that’s way too low.

Saying no to a project we’re not excited about.

Saying no to an invitation to speak or present to a group that’s not really in our target market.

We’ve been taught that saying no is rude. That it shows a lack of gratitude. That it’s hurtful or disrespectful to the other person.

But let’s face it . . . the alternative comes with its own set of problems. Saying yes too often creates time constraints, stress and resentment. It keeps us from reaching our income goals and doing what we really want to do. And it often leads to disappointment and burnout.

We know we need to say no more often. But how do we do it gracefully and with greater confidence?

Here are three things that can help:

1. Ask for a Time Out

The next time you get a request you’re not immediately certain you want to accept, ask for some time to think about it and get back to the person asking.

Sleep on it. Take whatever time you can take to think about the issue more critically.

Sometimes the right answer will emerge.

2. Visualize the “Yes”

While you’ve given yourself time to consider, use that time to visualize what saying “yes” would look and feel like.

If you say yes, what would next week look like? The week after? And the weeks after that?

How will it impact your schedule, deadlines and previous commitments?

How does it all feel? Project all this in your mind, play it out and feel the feelings. It’s very powerful.

You may realize that saying yes is actually doable and desirable. But more often, you’ll get worked up as you realize all the problems it will create.

Use those emotions (anger, disappointment and frustration) to temper your competing emotions of guilt and fear.

Let those feelings give you the courage to write the email response or to make the phone call to say no politely and professionally.

3. Remember that “No” is a Choice

Bestselling author James Clear gives us another way to look at the situation:

“When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option. No is a choice. Yes is a responsibility.”

Did you get that? No is a choice. Yes is a responsibility.

That’s powerful.

When you say yes, you’re also saying no to other options that might emerge while your hands are full.

When you say yes, you take on a whole mantle of responsibility. Which is fine and desirable when you’re ready for it.

But it can get awfully heavy when you’re not.



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