Learning how to say NO is healthy for you and your career

It's important to say 'no' these days - because until we learn to say 'no' we continue to be stressed and overwhelmed with too much to do in not enough time. And isn't it usually our priorities that suffer?

power of no blog cover
Credit: Lyria Charles

If somebody asks me to do one more thing, I think I’ll just explode!!!

If this sound like you, then you’re probably feeling overworked, unappreciated, and not in control of your time or priorities.

Welcome to the club – many people don’t know how to “just say no” and find themselves constantly handling other peoples’ priorities while their own priorities never seem to get done.

Even worse, while you’re helping other people get their priorities done, you may get reprimanded by your manager for not meeting your own commitments and deadlines.

The inability to say “no” may be spilling over into your personal life as well. You may be putting your family and friends priorities and needs before your own; seldom taking time to tend to your personal needs.

Whether at work or at home, the inability to say “no” is taking its toll on you. Leaving you frustrated, angry, and feeling trapped.

Saying 'no' is not in our DNA

People have trouble saying “no” for many reasons including:

  • Fear of authority – the person making requests or demands from us are in a higher position, so therefore we feel obligated to just say “yes”.
  • Fear of rejection – if we have a deep need to be liked, saying “no” is hard because we’re afraid that we won’t be liked by that person or that the relationship will suffer.
  • Fear of guilt – similar to the above bullet, we might have the belief that it’s our duty to say “yes,” even to our own detriment.

But here’s the thing – every time you say “yes” to something, you’re also saying “no” to something else. And that something else may be very important to your career or personal life.

Unless you learn how to start saying “no” your time and energy may be focused on things that are not in alignment with your personal values or goals.

As Jack Canfield says:

"There are only two words that will always lead you to success. Those words are yes and no. Undoubtedly, you’ve mastered saying yes. So start practicing saying no. Your goals depend on it!" Jack Canfield.

Check yourself out

So how can you start saying “no” so that you’re able to direct your time and energy into those things that you want to say “yes” to?

A good place to start is doing a little introspective work.

I developed a free downloadable workbook to help you examine your beliefs and attitudes about saying "no," and then create a plan for moving forward.

Here’s a sample of the introspective questions in The Power of NO! workbook:

  • What in your life do you need to say no to?
  • What stops you from saying no to these things?
  • When I say “yes” I want people to think I am…
  • When I say “no” I worry people will think I am…

Get yourself unstuck

After doing the introspective exercise you will have a better understanding of your beliefs and attitudes about saying “no”.

Now you’re ready to identify the priorities and goals that are most important to you, and where you want to invest your time and energy going forward. The Power of NO! workbook guides you through this process.

Some of the questions in this section include:

  • What is MOST important to ME in life?
  • How would I like to spend MORE time?
  • Where would I like to spend LESS time?
  • In what SPECIFIC areas or situations in my life do I need to be saying “no” more?


Prepare yourself to say 'no'

Now that you’ve done the introspective work and identified your priorities, you’re now ready to take action.

It’s time to start saying “no”!

But saying “no” can be awkward and uncomfortable. It takes practice.

You want to learn how to say “no” in a respectful way that honors and preserves your relationships.

The final part of The Power of NO! workbook helps you think through the best way to say “no” to the things you identified earlier; and provides examples that you can adapt to your situation.

Just say “no”!

If you need to start saying “no” so that you can start saying “yes” to the things that matter most in your life, then I challenge you to complete the workbook.

Start saying “no” to smaller/easier things first and celebrate those wins.

Trust me, you’re going to feel so much more empowered, and you’ll have the courage to start saying “no” to the bigger things!

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

To comment on this article and other CIO content, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Download the CIO October 2016 Digital Magazine
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.