Do you need to say no?

Many of us struggle to say no. Without being specific about a particular question, I conducted a quick poll to see how people felt about the word ‘no’ – here are a few responses:

‘No is literally such a negative word.’ 

‘No implies ‘lack’ – no money, no fun, no time, no friends.’

‘People look disappointed when you say no.’

‘No is always about stuff you don’t want rather than stuff you do want.’

Type ‘the power of saying yes’ into a search engine and you’ll find lots of links to inspiring talks and motivating articles. There are 377 million results.

Type in ‘the power of saying no’ and there are 733 million results: almost twice as many!  Does it mean we need to say no more often? Does that suggest we find it difficult to say no?

Referring to acting roles he was offered, Tom Hanks said

‘I realized…that I had to start saying a very, very difficult word to people, which was ‘no.’

The odd lesson for that is, I figured out that’s how you end up making the favorable work you do…. Saying yes, then you just work. But saying no means you made the choice of the type of story you wanted to tell and the type of character you want to play.’

Talking about products they’d dropped, Steve Jobs said:

‘… we had to decide: What are the fundamental directions we’re going in? And what makes sense and what doesn’t? And there were a bunch of things that didn’t. And microcosmically they might have made sense; macroscosmically they made no sense.

…When you think about focusing, you think, well, focusing is about saying yes. No. 

Focusing is about saying no.’

So it seems that if we want to do our best work, to focus and to be our best selves, we need to say no sometimes.

How do we say no?

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a client who has come to the conclusion that she needs to turn down an opportunity as accepting it will take her away from her long-term goal. ‘I just don’t know how to say no to them though,‘ she explained.

We used Cartesian Questions and ‘saying yes and saying no‘ to help her work through her thoughts and I shared with her some advice from entrepreneur and author, Seth Godin:

You can say no with respect,

you can say no promptly

and you can say no with a lead to someone who might say yes.

But just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: is there something you need to say no to?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?




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