3 ½ Ways to Say “No” (nicely)

2 minute read

Saying “No” is one of the most powerful things we can do to help ourselves.

It probably feels uncomfortable for many because we’ve learned to say, “Yes.”

I learned to say yes to: more work, to more responsibility, to staying late to get it done, to pulling more than my share of the load, to stepping into a gnarly situation and figuring it out.

I’m recommending you be choosier in what you say, “yes” to…and begin to say, “no” slightly more often.

Saying “no” isn’t saying “I don’t care”. It’s saying that you care about this thing that someone is bringing to you, and this isn’t (or may not be) the best time for you to handle all of it.

Here are 3 1/2 things you can say

instead of “yes I’ll do that now in addition to everything else”:

  1. I’ll be glad to do that in three weeks when my calendar opens up a bit.
  2. I’ll do that and will defer X till later (X is some other activity that you see as lower priority than this thing). 
  3. I’ll do this particular part of the task. (you get to bring your own superpower to bear, and also provide space for others to help, which is connected to the next one).

3.5 Who else is positioned to help with parts of that?

This is a skill that is best developed with time. Play with using this “new muscle” in simple situations and gradually build your skill and comfort. You’ll start to compile a list of ways to say No and you’ll be giving yourself time to become more agile and confident before practicing in bigger situations.