How saying “no” can make you more successful.


“Really Successful People Say No To Almost Everything”

-Warren Buffett

Why is saying “no” so difficult? Whether in the business world or our personal lives, we want to help people, we want to please our friends and family. We have a fear of letting someone down or missing out on something exciting. Sometimes our desire to do so comes at a personal cost that can be high.

saying no

If we say yes to everything offered to us, we are, in a sense, saying no to everything. We spread ourselves so thin, in attempting to do everything, we accomplish nothing. As a society, we have confused busy with success. If we are are not going from sun-up to sun-down, we are not working, successful, or doing enough. Did you know Warren Buffett (and many other successful people) follow the 5-hour rule? They spend at least 5 hours a week, reading, and learning. Following the 5-hour rule would be impossible to accomplish if they went around saying “yes” to everything offered to them.

Setting limits and discovering what is essential is a crucial characteristic of being a business owner. Opportunities for partnerships and “exciting opportunities” come at you daily. Being able to say no to the wrong ones and discerning the good ones will keep you sane and your business healthy.

The How

I can hear you now, “BUT HOW??” Honestly, if you are a people pleaser and are known for saying yes, the first NO is the hardest. Once you have the first one under your belt, it gets easier. The best way I have learned is to have a plan, a standard to follow in your life. What is your highest priority? The most crucial thing in your life or to your business? What goals have you set personally and professionally? (Check out a prior blog post we wrote about setting goals if you are looking to set some.) No one but yourself can decide what that standard is; it varies from person to person, business to business.

Here’s are some examples of people’s standards, maybe some of these will help you discover yours.

  • Spend more time with family
  • Less work travel
  • Focus on current product sales/not new products
  • Personal mental health
  • More teaching opportunities in the community

Discover your Standard

Like was said before, everyone’s highest priority will be a little different. Take some serious time to figure this out. Start by writing down 25 ideas that come to you, don’t put too much thought into this part, just write. Once you have finished, take a look back and cross off 20 of them. Of the five left, take time and debate the pros and cons of each one. The answer will come to you. Once it is there, write it down and put it anyplace, you will see it regularly. On your desk, on your phone, on the fridge, you get the idea. Strategic placement will help you stay focused on your highest priority.

Once you truly know what is essential, saying no becomes much more comfortable; just ask yourself, “Is the opportunity in front of me going to bring me closer or further away from what is most important?” That question will make it much easier to know when to say no and when to say yes.

Once you have decided to say NO

Alright, you decided to pass on an opportunity. You realized it doesn’t fit in the standard you set for your business or personal life. Now comes the hard part, actually telling them your answer. Here are a few simple tips and tricks I have discovered and used to help ease the sting of a no response.

1. Let them know you wish you could help- Saying no while still genuinely expressing your desire to help makes the no slightly little less painless to hear. “I wish I could help; your organization is doing amazing things! I am just not in a position at this time to be of assistance”. There is also the chance there is another way you can help. Maybe something that isn’t as much time or money required from you. Something that doesn’t take away from your primary focus and goals.

2. Be honest – don’t makeup excuses or lie – Simply put, being honest is the best way to go.  Honesty, however, does not equal being rude or callous; there is a fine line there, don’t cross it. People can see and sense a lie and excuse. Lying will only compound the problem. If you feel so inclined, you can tell the person asking how this doesn’t fit into the goals you have set for your business. “In the past, I have experienced this type of situation. It didn’t work well for myself or my company.” 

3. Offer another resource – A great way to say no but still be of assistance is to offer another support of who or what you think could be helpful. Make sure it is an honest referral. Don’t just give a name to get off the hook, and be sure to let the person you referred a heads up about the situation. “I am not available to help, but I think Jane Doe over at ABC company would be a great option.”

4. The word “No” is often enough – Often, we get caught up in the idea that we need to explain our reasons for saying no. Lengthy explanations and excuses are not always necessary. Especially when someone is not taking your NO politely, we all have come across that type, the person who no matter what reason you have just won’t let it go. “No, thank you.” is all that is needed. Do not feel guilty about being blunt.

Saying no to partnerships and projects is your right, and no one should make you feel guilty for prioritizing. If they do, It is a good sign you made the right choice in declining the offer. Taking on things on you think you shouldn’t have taken on doesn’t help you or the other person in the long run. You are doing a disservice to everyone involved. Don’t be afraid to say “no” when it doesn’t fit the standard you have set for your life. You will soon discover the joy of focusing on what is important to you and your business.





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