Skip to main content

We love people. It’s one of the big reasons why we got into event management. And they seem to love us back, judging by the number of calls, emails and back scratching invites we get.

But there comes a time when you need to just put your foot down and say no to all of these requests and favors. That time is now.

Sure, this all seems to be easy on paper (or screen unless you printed this post). In reality, we don’t know how to say no because it’s just too hard. Why is that?

Well for one thing, we’re all wired to help each other. Maybe we help so we don’t piss people off. Maybe we help because we like being important and we like the self-esteem boost it gives us. Or maybe we help because we feel that we’ll miss out on potential big opportunities if we don’t.

On the other hand, saying no means you’re actually saying yes to being productive, taking more time for yourself and generally improving your life by having less to stress about. Here are a few things to help you learn how to say no more easily:

1) Say no quickly and decisively.

Ever heard the saying, “The more you put things off, the harder it becomes?” Well, the same goes for saying yes. The more you say yes, the harder it is to learn how to say no to every little request. Saying yes to everything soon becomes a habit which will eat away at your free time, your family time and your vacation time.

So the first tip is: say no and be over it. Be assertive when you say no and give no wiggle room. Don’t think too much about your decision. There’s a sort of buyer’s remorse in you that will nudge you back to a yes. Be strong and fight it!

In any case, you can always say no politely. Just say, “No I can’t” or “This is a great idea but it’s not for me.” Remember, don’t give a reason so that there’s no counteroffer to make you say yes. And don’t apologize to make it a firm and resolute “no”.

2) If you are giving a reason, be brief and honest.

Okay, I said you shouldn’t give a reason, but let’s say you need to give one anyway. It might be because of the person asking: your boss, your top client or a favored coworker. Or it might be due to the nature of the ask: a good deal or a great idea but one that doesn’t work for you, at least not right now.

If you must give a reason, make it short. Brevity gives less room for error. Some examples:

  • I love your proposal, but we’re already busy for the season.
  • That’s great, but I’m afraid it’s outside my expertise.
  • Thanks but, to be honest, we don’t need this product.

And yes: don’t lie! Believe me, the best askers will know when you do. They can and will use your lies against you later. The reason you give should also be the only thing that’s stopping you from saying yes. If you give a flimsy reason, it will fall apart like a house of cards.

3) Give some options

If you want to be really polite, you can offer some alternatives to the asker. Refer them to someone else who can help, maybe someone who can even do it better than you. Or if you’re saying no right now because you don’t have the time, maybe you can schedule the discussion at a later time.

Giving someone options not only puts you in the person’s good side, you’re also helping them actually solve their problem despite you saying no to them in the first place.

4) Be a bit selfish to get into the right mindset.

When you think about it, many of the things you say yes to don’t benefit you. It’s the other party that has most to gain. You’re actually selling yourself short when you do their request.

You might not be losing money, but you’re losing something more important: time. So take a step back, see if the request makes sense for you. Will it give a 2x, 3x, 10x return on your time spent?

Also, you’re not just spending time to do the extra work. You’re also adding some stress to your already hectic schedule. You’re putting in extra effort to get your other work done. And you’ll surely lose sleep if ever this thing goes sideways.

BONUS: Watch out for shady persuasion techniques.

Some of the best askers are experts at getting a yes from people. Don’t feel bad if you say no to them since they surely won’t.

Some of the common technique they use include:

  • Giving a gift to ensure you’ll say yes in return.
  • Asking for a big thing then asking a smaller thing later as a compromise.
  • Saying that other people like you have said yes as well.
  • Pulling out the relationship card.
  • Giving a limited time offer.

Now that we’re at the end, do you know how to say no already? Saying no is hard at the start but like a muscle, you need to exercise it more often to get the most out of it. Don’t let the goals of others undermine your own goals. Just say no!

Request A Quote

Glenn Santos

Author Glenn Santos

Glenn has been writing about technology, productivity and lifehacks for 10 years now. He was previously an editor for Android Authority and Geeky Gadgets, and was one of the first contributors for Startup Weekend's main blog.

More posts by Glenn Santos
Share via
Send this to a friend