NO! Is More Than A Complete Sentence


This is the most powerful word you can learn to use; especially, when it comes to your schedule.
We are too nice when it comes to lending our time. We think because someone important is asking we must say “yes” to whatever they request.

The truth is that “no” is a required step to controlling your schedule and priorities.

“No” is not rudeness; “no” means someone else is better for the task you are asking of me.

Back in my days of Medicare Advantage pricing, I noticed the finance directors for the markets under my responsibility kept making fun of me with different negative affirmations. I had somehow built a reputation that I was quick to say “no” and decline their requests. That said, they kept bringing up ideas and requesting different analyses.

At the time, I disagreed with their assessment but never said anything and ignored the comments. Today, those memories have expanded my understanding of Dr. Henry Cloud’s statement in the picture above.

Here are three (3) thoughts about using “NO”.

#1 – It Increases Respect
Interestingly enough, my business partners didn’t develop a negative attitude towards me. They never complained. They actually started respecting my time and effort more.

Rather than asking for whatever they could imagine, they started being more thoughtful about their requests and even asking for my input before officially implementing the strategy.

They recognized that I wasn’t declining to help but I was trying to focus my efforts on the most important stuff.

#2 – It Requires Thoughtful Recognition
When I revisit those years and think about the reasons I had for using “no” so often, I become aware that it wasn’t just about “having too many things to work on and not enough time”. It was more than that.

I had to recognize…

  • I couldn’t solve everyone’s problems.
  • I didn’t need to do everything by myself.
  • I wasn’t the best person to address all issues that came to me.
  • Sometimes the customer doesn’t really know what they want.
  • Letting some things go, wasn’t failure.
  • Saying “no” wasn’t a reflection of my inability to help but a way to create space for me to focus.

Ultimately, I had to let go of being the knight in shiny armor saving the day. I had to stop pleasing everyone.

#3 – It Requires Courage, Confidence, and Conviction
The decision to decline a customer’s request is an internal struggle because we are fighting our basic need to be meaningful. This is courage…conquering our internal fear.

The next piece is confidence. I needed enough confidence in my abilities to know that what I was already working on was more productive than adding one more client request. The confidence of trusting my instincts to prioritize and manage my resources.

And last but not least, there is conviction. One of the biggest mistakes we make is to second guess our decisions. Once my priorities were set, I had to constantly commit to keeping them in place.

Many people tried to add stuff on my plate, and I had to courageously and confidently fight for my priorities. I didn’t win them all, but I certainly won a lot. Otherwise, they would have never made fun of me.


I’ll end with this challenge: If you consistently find yourself doing things that aren’t in alignment with your values and passions, it’s time to have a talk with your boss and find a new job.




4 thoughts on “NO! Is More Than A Complete Sentence

Add yours

    1. “no” sick at times. And yet, it’s not really a negative word. It’s liberation.

      Liberation of believing that everything is important.

      It’s a reminder that we don’t have to be right all the time.

      A reminder that we aren’t the only ones getting to do great things.

      After all, parents are telling kids “no” all the time. How come we can’t use it with adults?

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful piece – I value that you put in writing the “thougtful recognition” required for making decisions on whether to accept or decline a request. As an admin it is difficult not to believe all requests are “part of my job” because we are truly in a support role. And it is difficult envisioning saying “no” as anything but negative. However, after nearly 30 years of being an admin I have learned that no does have a place in my day. It is reflective of my deeper understanding of my commitments and capacity. It is reflective of understanding my priorities. And it presents the opportunity to revisit and reprioritize the work I am doing.

    I will report that my experience is similar – it takes courage and confidence to say no. It fosters respect when you can do so by fully understanding your priorities, capacity and strengths.

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