Focusing on Saying “No”

Like many of you, I skew toward being a people-pleaser. And, like most people pleasers, I find it difficult to say “no.” I’m constantly looking for tricks and hacks to help me say “no.”

One hack I find particularly helpful, along with the six mentioned below, is to treat my time like a business. Specifically, I think of requests as an online order. Once the inventory of a particular item is depleted—that’s it. Sorry, but this item is currently out of stock! In this case, the item is my time, specifically my ability to say “yes” to any new requests. Sorry, but we are all out of YES. All we have left on the shelf is NO.

It’s a classic supply and demand issue. We need to start treating it as such.

6 Ways to No:

  1. Just say it. Don’t overthink it. Be confident and tell your friend or coworker “no.” Delaying your response only adds anticipation and leads to increased disappointment.
  2. Be polite and brief in explaining why. Less is best. You don’t owe anyone a full explanation. Just be honest: “Sorry, but I have too much on my plate right now.”
  3. Offer an alternative that does work for you. “I can’t today, but tomorrow I will be heading that way and we can grab a coffee then.”
  4. Plan out your “no” ahead of time. Know your schedule. What do you have time for this week? If you’re swamped, plan out a few things you might say if someone asks you for help. One of my favorites: “I’m heads down on my book, so I’ll have to pass.”
  5. Be selfish. It’s your schedule, not theirs. There’s no way to reach your goals if you are taking on everyone else’s challenges and forgetting about your own.
  6. Start small. This week, try to say “no” to 2 things. They can be small things. “Would you like ground pepper on your salad, ma’am?” “No thank you.” Remember that practice doesn’t make perfect, but practicing good habits leads to progress and permanence.

None of this will be easy at first, but with practice, you will improve.

Economist Tim Harford states that “Every time we say yes to a request, we are also saying no to anything else we might accomplish with that time.”



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About the Author: Erik Qualman

Often called a Digital Dale Carnegie and The Tony Robbins of Tech, Erik Qualman is a #1 Best Selling Author and Motivational Keynote Speaker that has spoken in 49 countries.

His Socialnomics work has been featured on 60 Minutes to the Wall Street Journal and used by the National Guard to NASA. His book Digital Leader propelled him to be voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling. Qualman is a sitting professor at Harvard & MIT's edX labs.

His latest book What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube is a Pulitzer Prize nominated work.
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