Performance Improvement & Professional Development

The Power of Just Saying “No”

Saying no to the requests of others may actually mean saying yes to your real values and priorities.

Sounds a bit counter intuitive but, saying no to opportunities, to requests for meetings, or to contribute to worthy causes might actually be one of our most important tools in our arsenal for improving performance, productivity and to your quality of life.

Remember, time is a nonrenewable resource. Once an hour or a day or a week has passed – it’s gone, and it’s gone forever. Not being able to say no could actually rob you of time you need for other, more important priorities.

The Challenge

Many of us feel compelled to say yes to almost any and every request for our assistance or for our time. It’s as if the agenda of others is more important than our own. Big mistake. Learning to say no can actually earn you respect for yourself as well as those around you.

So, why do we continue to say yes? Lot’s of reasons I suppose but at the top of the list is the fear of being disliked, criticized or putting a friendship at risk. Psychologists say that the ability to say no is closely linked to self-confidence and self-esteem. People with low self-confidence or low self-esteem tend to rate the needs or requests of others more highly than their own.

Being unable to say no can make you exhausted, stressed and irritable. It can absolutely undermine any efforts at improving quality of life and can certainly affect performance and productivity.

Five Tips for Saying No

  1. A simple no is often the best answer. Being polite, but direct, and not beating around the bush demonstrates self-confidence and self-assurance. “Thanks for asking but my dance card is filled right now.” Be gracious, but firm. Remember, you’re not asking permission to say no.
  1. Avoid phrases like “Let me get back with you.” This may actually cause you to try and justify giving away time you really don’t have to spare. Don’t delay, say no (thank you) and say it quickly.
  1. If the request is something you might actually consider doing – but saying yes would interfere with other priorities, offer some type of compromise that might serve you both. “I can help with (fill in the blank) but I won’t be able to (fill in the blank) Avoid this option however if you really need to say no.
  1. Remember that refusal and rejection are two different things. You’re turning down a request – not rejecting the person. People usually respect and understand that you have a right to say no, especially if you’re busy and successful.
  1. Lastly, and most importantly, be completely honest with yourself regarding your values and responsibilities. Have a clear understanding of what your real priorities are and what your real daily focus should be.

Carefully consider saying no to the requests of others. Stay true to your values – stay focused on your most important priorities..


About the Author

Les Taylor is the founder and managing partner of Outperformers International. He is an award-winning author, professional speaker and recognized expert in the field of performance improvement and professional development. Les is a former law enforcement executive, served as the executive director of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and is a past president of the Arizona Chapter of the National Speakers Association.

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