How to Start Saying “No”

For the last two months I’ve worked on a project called “30 Days of Hustle.” I send an email out each morning with a challenge and created a private Facebook group. A few days ago, I shared an idea that I thought I would add here.

It’s about the most powerful word you need when you chase a dream.

I’m talking about the word “no” of course.

This is a hard one for me, because it’s fun to say yes. That word makes people happy. Yes I will do that. Yes I will be there. Yes I will work on it. But sometimes, we don’t understand that when we say yes, we are saying no to the things that really matter.

Here are 5 ways to say no to things that might distract you:

1. Prepare for yes situations.
Right now, about 10 people a week ask me to say yes to going to coffee with them. But if I say yes to everyone, that’s a lot of time I won’t be spending doing what I feel called to do, write. So in preparation for that, I’ve written a standard email response. Do some people wish I would say yes? Sure, but no is the right decision in a lot of these cases.

2. Check your motivations.
If we’re honest, sometimes we say yes for the wrong reasons. For instance, if I go speak to a bunch of organizations about topics that aren’t in my core strength, the reason I’m doing it is for money. Is it OK to do that sometimes? I guess, but each day I spend on the road away from my real goals, I get further away from being who I am trying to be. Be honest about your motivations. Why do you keep saying yes to the wrong things?

3. Get a no partner.
Don’t try to say no alone. Get someone who can help you do that. We all have a friend who is a master of no. They don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings or disappointing someone if no is what they should say to a request. Find a master of no and tell them that you, like me, are a wimp when it comes to the word no.

4. Accept the consequences.
If someone gets mad that you said no to them, that’s not a sign you shouldn’t have said that. It’s actually a huge validation that no was the best thing to say. When someone is mad I won’t go to a coffee or endorse a book I don’t have the time to give attention to, their anger is not failure on my part. That’s on them. Don’t let the disappointment of someone else change your no into a yes. Anger is an awful reason to change your word. (And the same goes with me. There were two friends who wouldn’t endorse my last book. Would I have preferred them to say yes instead of no? of course, but that doesn’t mean I should be angry. I have to respect their no.)

5. Carry a yes list.
The reason you have a hard time saying no is that often, you lose sight of what you’ve already said yes to. Keep a “yes list,” a simple list of commitments you’ve already made. Put it on a note in pocket or make it the wallpaper of your phone. When you face a situation that requires you to say no, review it.

The word yes is very expensive. You only have a few opportunities to spend it every day. Don’t waste it on situations that deserve to hear the word no.

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