How to make ‘no’ an acceptable word in your vocabulary

So often we think of ‘no’ as that impossible word. It’s a word that we rarely allow ourselves the relief of saying, for fear of disappointing or offending our peers. Although one of the worst places for this is in the work place, it happens all the time – with our boss, friends, colleague, partners and even our children. We even fear saying no to complete strangers! Sometimes you don’t realise how big the problem is until it begins to take a real effect on your life.


Saying no to a face like this? Impossible.


Here’s an example from my own personal experience. I’m a typical yes person – or at least I was. For instance, my third husband had an enthusiastic idea for a brand new product: he loved designing and creating new things. However, the cost would be substantial and the risks were high. We were short of money, but it sounded like a great idea and he was sincerely passionate about it. So of course, although I didn’t want to, and in the full knowledge that the decision was mad – doubly mad – we increased the mortgage on the house (The house I had bought). Of course, the product didn’t do as well as we hoped, and I was left some years later with nothing.

It’s an extreme example, but a good reminder of just how powerful a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ really can be. It takes courage to be true to yourself and ask ‘is this really right for me at this time? How do I feel about this?’ The fact remains that the first thing we need to do to take control of our lives is to master the tricky art of saying no.

So – how to say ‘no’? I meet so many people in the work place who are stressed and feeling totally out of control of their own lives because they simply don’t know how to say no. They have lost track of the amount of times X has left the office and said, ‘Oh Pen, I’ve got to dash out to a meeting, you couldn’t finish this report could you?’ Ultimately, the knack is to be able to say no to requests like this without offending anyone. For instance, If you have colleagues that continually dump stuff on you, then show them your list of priorities that have to be completed and ask them to choose which piece of work they’d like it to replace. Explain that if it’s for another person or department that they’ll need to go find that person and tell them that the work you’re currently doing will have to wait. At that point, they will probably move their work elsewhere!

What we must combat in the art of saying no is how to deal with the feelings of guilt we experience when we do. Sometimes it can be crippling! Occasionally my children will ask me for financial help, which I would happily give them. But is it always the right thing to do? So I say ‘no’, and am instantly wracked with feelings of guilt, wondering how they are going to cope. However, I know deep down that I’m doing the best thing and encouraging them to take responsibility for themselves. Try to understand that you are almost certainly doing the best thing for someone when you say a considered ‘no’.

Saying yes won’t always benefit the person you’re going along with, and it will most certainly not always benefit you. Ask yourself what you really want – and never be afraid of saying no.

My organisation, The Living Leader has changed the lives of over 35,000 people around the world and has had a significant impact on the business performances of those I’ve worked with including companies like Argos, Metrobank, Sage and more. To see how I can help you, please get in touch.



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