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Say No More Often!



Over the years I have wrestled with saying “no” to many requests. When I was two years old, I am sure I did not have that problem. Just ask my family! As I grew up, I think the people pleaser in me showed up, and “no” seldom found its way into my vocabulary. As an adult, I have a distinct memory about learning how to say “no.” I was doing volunteer work at a local museum for a major fund-raising event. I was responsible to get volunteers for my committee. I still remember the woman I asked who instead of just saying “no” said, “No, I can’t help you now, but when the event takes place I’ll be glad to work.” Gosh, that no really did not sound so much like a no.


Yes can be the right answer many times, but none of us has unlimited time available to say yes to everything. It’s knowing when to say yes or no and then how to say it that makes the difference. The think with say no is that you can then say yes to what is really important to either you or your business.


Here are seven ideas to help you say “no” more often.


1. Does the request move you closer to your goals? If it does, that is great. Commit the time needed. If it does not, it should be easy to say no.


2. How does the time commitment for a “yes” affect your priorities? Sometimes we might like to say yes, but the time away from our stated priorities is a sacrifice that we are not willing to make. One example might be that your priority for family time requires you to say no to requests that interfere with that. And, do not forget that commitments to yourself count as priorities; do not give up time you need to rejuvenate or “fill the well.” What is key here is that you must know your values and priorities, or else you will get sucked down the “yes” well.


3. It is OK to think about the request. You can tell the person you will give some thought to their request and then get back to them. This gives you time to consider the request, see how it fits into your goals, priorities and commitments.


4. Do not apologize for saying “no.” Often people will say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t because….” It’s not necessary to give a reason why you can’t. It is your time you are guarding. If you feel the need to explain, a simple “I can’t at this time” should work.


5. Offer an option. If you want to be involved in an activity that will take too much of your time, think of how you can do something small that will be less stressful. That’s what the woman who taught me how to say “no” did. For example, if you are asked to be responsible for arranging for snacks for your child’s soccer team for the season, offer to bring snacks for one game. When my quilt guild was in need of volunteers for its show, I offered to design the brochure and advertising materials, something I could do on my own time.


6. Try to be aware of when someone is going to ask you for something. If you are on a committee or part of a group, it is much easier to let the chair/group know ahead of time that you are already committed and cannot take on something else.


7. Practice saying no. Try it when you are asked for personal information when you shop. Try it with telemarketers.


And, once you have said no, just move on. In all likelihood, you will feel better and much less stressed, and the person who asked just moves onto the next name on her list. It was not personal to her and should not be to you.


Here is an excellent quote on the value of saying no:


“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.
You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
Steve Jobs


How good are you at saying, “no?” Please share your thoughts below. I would love to hear them. You are also welcome to go to leave a comment on the ICAP Facebook or Google+ pages.


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Morna McEver is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals where creative arts entrepreneurs craft business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a FREE subscription at


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One Response to “Say No More Often!”

  1. International Association of Professional Quilters Blog » Blog Archive » Do You Suffer From Smorgasbord Syndrome? said:

    […] big part of this is learning to say no. As you approach your tasks, ask if it’s something you really want to spend your time on. Ask […]

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