Saying No: An Overlooked Tool For Success



Aug. 21 2014, Published 1:18 p.m. ET

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Whether you are a people pleaser, want to impress a new boss, or just want to reach a goal, we all hit a point in our lives when we realize we cannot put anything else on our plate.

Spreading yourself too thin is a common problem of most determined, goal-oriented millennial women. However, when we decide taking on another responsibility is simply not possible, saying no can be daunting and stressful. In situations like this it is important to realize that saying no is just as important to success as saying yes is.

Saying no allows you more time to do well in the things you say yes to.

When you close a door to an opportunity it might be a little upsetting to know that you may not get that opportunity again. But, by saying no, you have ensured that you have enough time to give your attention to the responsibilities you already have in your life. Doing an excellent job in a few tasks is better than doing mediocre in a lot of tasks as you build a reputation of producing solid work.

Recognize that saying no can be a way of respecting yourself.

Trying to be helpful is great. However, sometimes you need to set boundaries. People may want to take advantage of your kindness.

So, should you say no? When given an option to take on another project at work or volunteer at the local animal shelter, consider your priorities. How will this decision affect you or the things that matter to you? Say no if the task negativity affects you professionally or personally. Negative effects may include taking up time you need for an important presentation or missing your child’s graduation. Know what is best for you.

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If you are still on the fence about accepting a task after looking at your priorities, ask yourself some more questions. If you say yes, what will happen? What is the worse thing that can happen if you say no? Take the good and bad consequences into consideration.

With that being said, knowing you should say no is half the battle. The other half is actually saying no to your friends, your coworkers, or even your boss. You can make the process of saying no smooth by following some simple guidelines:

1. Be definite.

be firm

Giving definitive answers can be difficult, especially if you want to say yes but you know you shouldn’t. However, being wishy-washy is unprofessional and can be slightly annoying. Make a decision and stick with it. If you are in a situation that you need to mull over, simply state that you will look into it and leave it at that.

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2. Be firm

be polite

Sticking to your guns is another important aspect of saying no. You said no because you have concluded that, for one reason or another, you do not want to handle a certain responsibility. Do not let yourself be swayed into saying yes. In addition to that, make sure that your body language is also saying “no.” Fidgeting and avoiding eye contact is the last thing you want to do. Exude confidence!

3. Be polite

be polite

Being definite and firm does not mean you get to forget your manners. The other person genuinely respects you and your ability. Show them the same respect. Smile and thank them for thinking of you.

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4. Explanations (should you choose to give one) should be brief.


You should know that you have the right to refrain from giving explanations. However, if you think that one is necessary, you do not have to unload your entire schedule to the other person. “My schedule won’t allow it as of now” has the potential to save a lot of time. Also, stay away from white lies. You know what they say—honesty is the best policy!

5. Do not be overly apologetic.


There is no doubt that saying no can make you feel guilty in some cases. Express to the other person that you are sorry, but do not drag it out. If you feel particularly upset about saying no remember that you can help in other ways. Maybe you can refer the person asking you to another person that could help them out.

No is a small word with a big impact, but it does not have to be intimidating. Most people understand that taking on too much can be detrimental. In addition to that, saying no improves the quality of your work so do not be afraid to utilize it! The best part is if you remember these tips you will be able to maintain your professionalism as well as your sanity.


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