The Power of NO and the 4 Reasons you Shouldn’t Say Yes

Power of No in Business How to say No

The Power of NO and the 4 Reasons you Shouldn’t Say Yes

I spent one evening last week with a group of dynamic, smart businesswomen, all entrepreneurs.  I cannot stop reflecting on one of their questions, “What is the best way to say no in business?”

Fact.  As of this morning, there were eight billion Google searches for – “How to say No in Business”

The struggle to say no is real and is quickly confirmed with very little research.

I’ve read about blaming “saying no” on your workload or this token of advice, “it’s important to recognize the difference between an opportunity and a distraction.”  Okay.  Yes. Got it.  You can consider those options, but they don’t work as well for me as I find other approaches more sincere.

Open and honest, I do think women have more challenges saying no because we tend to think we can always do just one more thing.  We’re famous for multi-tasking.  How many times has this happened to you, your plate is full, you add one more thing and then you have the overwhelm of not knowing just exactly how you are going to get it all done?  We also tend to put others needs before our own.  Also, as women, we want to be likable.

You have heard it from me before, I find Warren Buffet fascinating.  As you might guess, I researched what he says about saying no in business.  Here it is.  “We need to learn the slow yes, and the quick no.”  While this is solid advice, I think as entrepreneurs we have a fear of missing out and end up saying yes to things we regret later even when at the time we probably actually knew we should say no.

Before we talk more about saying no, let’s explore and understand why it is that we say yes.  It can be for many reasons, here are the most common ones.

  1. We say yes to avoid conflict
  2. We say yes due to fear of disappointing or hurting another person
  3. We say yes simply to get along
  4. We say yes to be liked

As entrepreneurs so much is coming at us every day the truth is we simply should not say yes to everything.  Our desire to be helpful can keep us saying yes when we should say no.  One of the best things you can do for yourself, and for your business is to say no.  And yet, we continue to say yes.

Saying no is a learned skill.  What are the steps you need to take to get confident and comfortable doing it?  We always get better at everything with practice, however, some recommendations to consider are listed below.

It’s best to start with a positive statement, but not necessarily a compliment. 

Make a list or a script and review it until you have it memorized. This will help with increasing your confidence around saying no.

Example *Go ahead and tweak to make them feel right for you.  

“While I understand why you are looking for an event or promotional partner, based on the number of requests coming in, I’ve simply had to limit mine.”

“Thank you for contacting me.  Unfortunately, I am not able to help at this time.”

“While I can’t help you with that, I would recommend someone else.” (provide referral name)

Remember, people don’t know all that you are currently working on, so providing context is helpful.

“I am currently working on several other initiatives.  Right now, if I take on one more thing it will dilute my efforts and the time commitment I have already made to my current projects.”

I love the advice Good Therapy ™ shares.  Being able to say no may enable you to be more honest and authentic with others.  You may be less likely to feel taken advantage of, and people may learn to come to you for the things to which you are more inclined to say yes.  Be clear, consistent, and concise.  Communicating to others that they have been heard can strengthen the relationship, even when you say no.

And then there’s this from Frank Partnoy, the author of Wait.  “Given the crush of technology, email, social media and 24-hour news, most of us react and decide too quickly.  We are hard wired to snap respond to fast, salient stimulus, even when it’s to our disadvantage.”

We can all relate to this.  Let’s face it, it’s simply hard to say no.  One thing I know for sure.  If we practice, we will get better.

At MWFIA we are committed to serve our clients and students and always love hearing from each of you.  It’s how we learn and grow and become better at what we do so that we can broaden and deepen our impact and help more of you reach your goals.








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Mary Williams

Mary is a business etiquette and protocol expert for executives and rising stars who want to unleash their best self and achieve their goals. A veteran of the C-Suite, Mary is a passionate advocate for utilizing the best skills in business etiquette and protocol to ensure meaningful actions for success in business and life. After more than a dozen years in her role as chief of staff, Mary launched her own dream business, Mary Williams, Your First Impression Authority. As a graduate of The American School of Protocol and a certified Business Coach, in addition to working at the highest levels of national and international organizations, Mary understands both the demands and the complexities of maneuvering effectively through business and life.   She is a regular presenter at university business schools, nonprofit organizations, trade association conferences, as well as corporate events. Her mission is to share all she has learned along the way, and in doing so provide effective business coaching to ultimately help people reach their true potential, utilizing distinct techniques and simple steps that guarantee success.

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