The Power of Saying No

The Power of Saying No

Let’s be real… it feels great being the person who says “yes” and is always the “go-to” person. It makes us feel important, gratified, and maybe even fulfilled. But, what happens when we burn out? What happens when we’ve said “yes” to too much? Most go-getters fall into the pattern of saying “yes” way too often. You know what’s ironic? Go-getters can actually get way more done if they start saying “no” more. I’m going to explain exactly why you need to harness the power of saying no and how you can start today.

The Power of Saying No

Saying no aligns your actions to your priorities

Saying no is difficult, especially when you’re saying no to things that seem exciting, fun, or beneficial. But, there’s always something else out there that we could be doing instead of the task at hand. So, how do you know if the task at hand is something you should continue or say no to?

There’s one simple heuristic I use that’s helped me extinguish this problem forever. That heuristic is this…

I ask myself if the thing I’m saying “NO” to aligns with my priorities in life. Does it align with my end goal right now? Does it match my current vision for my life? If the answer is no, then I’m simply not going to do that thing that is begging for my attention.  

Saying no to one thing means saying yes to something else

I’ve always thought saying NO was somewhat liberating. Because, you know what? Even though I’m saying no to watching a holiday showing of “Elf” with my roommate and her boyfriend, I’m saying YES to working on my latest side project to launch custom-designed clothing for the crypto industry.

Saying no to one thing means you must be saying yes to something else. So ask yourself, “What am I saying yes to if I say no to this?” What is the the thing you’re going to be able to do, achieve or accomplish if you just say NO to this one thing tonight? Is this thing you’re saying yes to going to getting you closer to your life’s vision? (i.e. a life full of happiness, love, health, and wealth – if that’s the kind of thing you want)

Saying no gives you posture

Let’s talk about career and work. What is the benefit of saying no in your career? Have you ever felt the inkling suspicion that you need to decline an upcoming meeting or project to focus on other projects on your plate? Or is there a voice in the back of your mind imploring you to not send out the proposal you’re writing to a potential (problem) client? Or maybe your clients/team members are just asking too much of you…

Giving yourself the permission to use the power of saying no actually makes others see you in a different light. They might realize that you’re overloaded and start being more empathetic of that fact. They might even admire you for being able to put your foot down. Saying no could make your clients see that you’re a serious entrepreneur providing elite and quality services.

The power of saying no enables you to show the world that you are not just some yes-woman or yes-man. It tells the world that you have important tasks and encourages everyone to take you a bit more seriously. You are a go-getter chasing after something and you’re not just sitting around twiddling your thumbs.

Say no and just sit back and watch. The way people work with you starts transforming. You’ll get a bit more respect, authority, admiration, and maybe even a few “yeses” in return.

Saying no increases your self-confidence

Saying no to a night out, a potluck dinner with friends, or even some pointless work conference can help you curate your time, yes… but it can also give you a little boost in your self-confidence.

When you say no to someone or something, you’re giving your brain a message. You’re telling yourself that YOU are more important that the thing that is vying for your time and attention. You’re telling yourself that you are important and your dreams are important. By saying no to something you don’t think you really need to be doing, you’re breathing life and light into yourself. In fact, you’re being your own cheerleader! Doesn’t it feel good?!

Saying no also means that you are steering your own ship. You’re not in the passenger’s seat anymore just “going with the flow.”

You’ve given yourself the authority and permission to take a left when the “flow” wants to go right.

You’re charting your own course.

And oh my, it feels powerful!

Saying no focuses your energy

The late Steve Jobs once said, “Focus is about saying no.” That statement couldn’t be any truer. The way Jobs brought Apple back to life with the creation of the iPod is a story for the books.

But, what the world doesn’t talk much about is how much Jobs had to say no in his life. His life was about innovating at Apple; everyone knew that was his priority. By saying no to other opportunities and social engagements, Jobs was able to immerse himself and focus on building one of the most impactful companies of our time. By saying no, Jobs was focusing his energy.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should ignore the rest of your life and throw yourself at your work. There is value (and happiness) in cultivating a well-rounded and somewhat balanced life. However, I do think we can all take some cues from Steve Jobs.

If you and I are able to take even 20% of Jobs’ focus and harness the power of saying no, we’d be able to conquer our dreams.

Give yourself the permission to decline offers, to pass on social events, and to focus on YOU. By dialing in your energy in this way, I promise you, you’ll be able to achieve even your wildest dreams.

Tips on Saying No

We talked all about why we should use the power of saying no. But what about the how?

There are many formulas out there to say no professionally, tactfully, and eloquently. However, in my experience, I’ve found that simplicity and straightforwardness wins.

Here are 3 easy steps that you can use to say NO:

  1. Say “NO” quickly – don’t beat around the bush, justify, explain or defend yourself. Doing any of these will downplay the point of your statement (which is the fact that you’re saying no!)
    • Actually say or type the word “no.” It’s hard to be clearer than that.
    • Be firm and honest but remember to remain sensitive and polite. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
    • Never make false promises. Don’t tell someone you’ll “try to hang out next time” when you know that you really don’t ever want to hang out with them ever again. It’s just rude.  
  2. Explain why clearly – Tell the person you’re declining why you’re going to have to decline their offer. Give clear, honest reasons. People understand reasons and it creates empathy on the other end.
  3. Offer an alternative – If you feel that it’s appropriate, it could be valuable to offer an alternative to the person you’re declining. Maybe you can’t spend time roasting the Thanksgiving turkey this year, but you can get to dinner early and help set up. Be creative! The gesture that you want to pitch in or help out goes a long way.

Need some examples on saying no? Check out Tim Ferriss’ latest podcast, “How to Say No.”


Do you struggle saying no? What are some tactics you’ve used in the past to gracefully decline offers or invitations that you know you shouldn’t accept? I’d love to hear about your tips on saying no. Comment below (or reply to this email if we’re in your inbox) to let me know!

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