The Power of Saying No

The Power of Saying No
One of the biggest challenges people have is saying, "No."

Has this ever happened to you?

Scenario 1: 

Can you help with the school committee? "Well, I have a huge deadline at the end of the month, so I can't really devote the time." But you are so good at promotion. It'll only be a few hours a week. "A few hours?" Well, less than 20 total, but you are speedy, so it will probably won't take you that long. 

What you want to say: No.

What you say: Yes.

What happens: You dedicate more than 40 hours, because when she said help she meant lead the committee, and everyone else shirked their responsibilities. You are not happy with the work you have done for either project. Plus, you are frustrated, sleep deprived, and mad at yourself for not sticking to your instincts.

What you should have said: I understand that volunteering is part of my responsibilities as a parent at the school. However, the timing is not great. Let's take a look at the calendar and pick something I can contribute in the near future. I will be less stressed, won't have to split my focus, and will do a better job on both projects.

Scenario 2: 

Mom, will you pick up grandchild from school this afternoon and take him over to the dentist? "I'd love to help you out, but you know this is my designated writing day." I know it's short notice, but I have a meeting for work that I can't reschedule. "Why did you double-book?" The work thing was last minute. You'd really be helping me out. And I know how much you two enjoy spending time together.

What you want to say: No.

What you say: Yes.

What happens: You do it. It's fine. But you get the same request a week later. Then, when you try to say, "no," you get, But you did it last time and didn't you two have the best time? 

What you should have said: I understand it's last minute, and I will help you out this time. But, in the future, I'd appreciate it if you would find an alternative. Even though it's work on spec, it's still my work schedule; I cannot skip all the time. Optional: I take Fridays off, so if you need me to pick him up on a Friday, that's much easier.

Scenario 3: 

Do you want to be on a panel for this cool - but not related at all to your business goals - event? We had a last-minute cancellation and we'd love to bring you on board.

What you want to say: No.

What you say: Yes.

What happens: This could go either way. 

1. You do the event, you make some new friends. You don't really get work out of it, but make some nice connections. 

2. You do the event. It went okay, but definitely not a topic you would speak on in the future. It felt strained, but you pulled it off. To top it off, you discover the topic that is your forte is on the schedule for three months from now; and you are not eligible since they have a rule against repeating speakers within a year.   

What you should have said: I'd love to help out. But just so you know this is more on the cusp of my niche. My true expertise is XXX. Whether or not I am still a fit for this event, I'd appreciate it if you would think of me the next time my topic comes up, regardless of the timing.

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To avoid - or at least lessen - regret, wasted time, and frustration, before you commit to anything, ask yourself three questions:

1. What is the benefit? Will it help me professionally, personally, or both? Does it reflect my mission? 

2. What is the commitment? Do I have the time and bandwidth to take this on?

3. Do you want to do it? When it comes right down to it, this is really the only answer that matters. 

When making a decision to do - or not do - something, consider yourself first. Granted, emergencies happen and sometimes the choice is a clear Yes. However, if your answer is No, meant it, stick to it, and keep any (necessary) explanation short and firm. 

Think of Saying No as giving yourself the gift of time. And it's likely something you should give yourself more often.

For more on the power of saying "no," join on Twitter this Sunday, May 13, at 7pm PT for our #GoalChat on this topic.

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How do you say No? Do you say No? Or is it a skill you need to improve? Please share in the comments.

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Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.


Terry Whalin said...


I loved the practical examples and the outcomes you put into this article. As writers, people make all sorts of false assumptions about us--after all we're just writing (implied what could be so complicated about that). As writers, we need to guard our time and say no. I appreciated these reminders and insights.

Straight Talk From the Editor

Debra Eckerling said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Terry. Much appreciated!

Karen Cioffi said...

Debra, excellent tips on how to keep yourself on track by not overextending yourself. Saying NO can be tough at times, but you gave great examples of how to gracefully do it!

Debra Eckerling said...

Thank you, Karen. Such a common problem with an easy solution that is not that easy.

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