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The power of NO!

ProductivityEdward KiledjianComment

Most people are in the business of pleasing others and find it difficult to set boundaries and say no. Remember that always saying yes means you are always putting others before you. It is important to ensure that you give yourself permission to be a little selfish and let people know you have limits. This is one of the most rewarding things you can learn and it will also greatly increase your productivity.

Saying No everywhere

The above tip is useful for all aspects of your life and shouldn’t be restricted to business only settings. It is not uncommon for people to say “Yes” and give up something much more critical and valuable just to please others. Think of that “quick” meeting you agreed to participate in that ended up eating 3 hours of your day (instead of preparing the boss’ report)?

Why is it so difficult

Each of us has our own personal reasons why Yes feels better than no but they may revolve around/

  • Wanting to be a helpful person. You may feel that turning down a request will make you look like a cold hearted and “bad” person.
  • Your mother always thought you to be polite and saying no just feels rude. This is especially true when you may have to say no to a boss. This is a core motivator for YES in many overseas countries like China and India.
  • You want to be seen as a contributing member to your clan.
  • Fear of the opportunity cost. This is especially true un customer/supplier type settings where there is a fear that saying no may prevent future opportunities.

Most of the above are fallacies and sometimes saying yes [properly] will actually yield better outcomes.

Do it for the right reasons

No one is asking you to be rude or condescending, the most effective way of saying No is to be clear but polite.  The best way to deliver the No is to say it explain why in a clear and concise fashion.  It may also be good to offer an alternative when possible.

I’d love to do XXX but unfortunately I am working on a high priority activity right now, can we do XXX later?

If you can’t then be upfront and say why.

I love the idea but unfortunately I can’t support it because XXX happened last time.

Sometimes your requestor may be expecting an immediate response and your No may be used to buy some time.

Let me think about that a little and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.

Sometimes the proposal or request may simply be inappropriate or untimely so you may have to resort to a clear No.

I appreciate your suggestion but I don’t think it is the right thing to do right now.

I don’t think we can do it now but I’ll keep it in mind.


The ability to say NO will be liberating and done properly will make you more productive and thus able to help more people.