Need To Say “No” More Often? Here’s How!

Saying no was always something challenging for me, and a muscle I’ve deliberately had to develop. I was so inspired by an article I just read on this topic that I instantly decided to write about it here and add to the conversation.

The article by communication expert and author Alexandra Janzen is entitled How to Say ‘No’ to Everything Ever: A Universal Script for… Well, Everything Ever, and provides a five-step script for saying no more often, and in a skillful, kinder way. She so wisely writes:

It’s been said that one of the secrets to the late, great Steve Jobs’ success was to “say no to 1,000 things.”

You’ll find this theme percolating throughout the biographies of myriad heroes and mentors. Highly-productive and satisfied people say “no” to non-essential projects, tasks, requests and opportunities-and they say it so well.

We all know that we need to say “no” about 1,000 times more than we say “yes.” But we don’t. And we pay the price, with over-cluttered calendars, over-saturated psyches, chronically-elevated stress hormones, and tightly-clenched shoulders that never quite sink away from our earlobes.

Sure, there are plenty of things that stop us from saying “no.” But not having the right language to do it shouldn’t be one of them.

Spectacularly said! Alexandra’s suggested script has five steps:
  1. Open with gratitude.
  2. Acknowledge their courage.
  3. Tell them “no.”
  4. Tell them why.
  5. Close with generosity.

She provides specific wording ideas for each of those which you can check out in the original article here or via the link above. (You can tell by her skill that she is clearly a Sweet Spotter doing the work she’s meant to be doing!)

I’d like to build on Alexandra’s excellent suggestions by sharing some thoughts on how to discern what to say no to in the first place. How do you decide?

I’ve noticed that the things that require a “no” tend to fall into four broad categories:

  1. Clearly a ‘No way!’
  2. Likely a no.
  3. Not sure if it’s no or yes.
  4. No for now (a yes, but not in this timing).

I have a somewhat radical way of assessing anything that falls into any of these categories: if you don’t feel a full body YES!, a knowing inside that has truly magnetic quality to it, then it’s a no (for now).

Can it really be that simple? Yes, although it’s not necessarily easy before that muscle is built. I have had to practice A LOT to improve in this area (and continue to do so).

At a time when we are all getting more and more overloaded with information and demands on our time and attention, it’s a critical skill to develop if you’re ever going to follow your own highest path into what you’re most meant to be doing in your business (and your life).

Developing discipline around this practice is one of the key habits that distinguishes the highly productive and satisfied heroes and mentors that Alexandra points to in her article. It definitely worked for Steve Jobs!

It works in your business, and it also works in the rest of your life (which positively impacts your business). If you say yes to getting together with a friend for coffee instead of going to a dance class which would have generated far more joy and well-being for you, your business suffers from that. Everything is connected.

Have a look right now (without judgment) to see what things you may have said yes to in your business (and perhaps in the rest of your life too) that were really a no. What types of things are you saying yes to that are really no’s?

Raising your awareness around it is a first step and goes a long way. It will help you recognize the warning signs BEFORE you say yes next time! That will free up a lot more time and energy for the things that are a true yes for you.

To support your new practice, Alexandra’s suggestion is right on:

Take this five-step script and store it as a draft in your email inbox. (So that you have no excuse not to say “no!”)

What could you say no to today (whether in business or outside of it) that could start building this “just say no” muscle in you?

Photo: Ben Heine

About Lisa Berkovitz

Lisa Berkovitz is a "Sweet Spot" business coach who specializes in helping you, as a socially conscious entrepreneur, to create, market and sell your world-changing products and programs based on powerful alignment with who you really are, what matters to you most, and who you’re meant to serve. She knows that what's easiest, most inspiring, and most fun for you is the key to your greatest contribution, and can be translated into a thriving, remarkable business you love. You can also find Lisa here:

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