Learning to say NO might seem a selfish thing to do. BUT! By learning to say NO without feeling guilty, you will find time you never dreamed you had. You will quite literally claim back your life.  This post is based on material from my friend Arthur Gobey.

Because NO is such powerful word, it can hurt or heal. Whenever you use the word “NO” you risk conflict. This is particularly true when dealing with people who do not habitually respect boundaries. It is worth, therefore, developing the skills required to use “NO”. Having said that, it is sometimes (usually) better to say “NO” bluntly, without skill when you know it is required. There are countless online marketers who are trained to buttonhole you on a cell phone call, interrupting your meeting or your train of thought who will prey on your politeness until you shut them down.

And they are just one group of people who want to lay claim to your time. Here are a whole lot more. Print out the page and circle the situations in which a deftly delivered “NO” would have saved you time and discomfort:

When we are not used to saying “NO” we often think that saying “NO” will create implacable, eternal enemies. Consider some of the “NOs” you’ve weathered. Did you end up hating the person who said “No” to you? Were you crippled (apart from your ego)? No, you survived. So people do get over being told “NO” even when their entitlement demands strict compliance on your part. We all have the capacity to get over the rejection that comes with being told “NO” even by our very best friends.

The first sell is to yourself. Until you have convinced yourself that your time and energy are yours to manage, the following points will not be of much use. However when you are ready for this, here are some strategies you may wish to consider for saying “NO”:


  • “As a policy I don’t lend money too friends”
  • “Sorry this is just not a good time for me”
  • “Sorry I’m self employed and my income fluctuates too much”
  • “Not to day I’m short of cash”


  • “No Thanks I’m not interested & attending a meeting will not change my mind”
  • “You seem very excited, I wish you luck, but it’s not for me”
  • “I have turned down this offer before and have still not changed my mind”
  • “You are very persistent; I can see why you are a good sales person. But I’ve said no, please don’t ask again”


  • Blame the kids / partner / dogs / baby sitter / mother in-law / Your job


  • “I know you’re an intelligent person, so I’m surprised you’d make a remark / tell a joke like that”
  • “That’s not a fact, that’s your opinion. And it’s one I strongly disagree with”
  • “It’s hard to believe that people still think like that in this day and age. I thought we were beyond the hurtful stereotypical attitudes”


  • “Unless it’s an emergency, I have to say NO, I’m not very good with animals / kids”
  • “I know how much you love your cat, and I don’t think I’m up to that responsibility”


  • “Maybe you could ask Rachel around the corner”


  • “Sorry, no not this time”
  • “I can’t help you this week but check with me next week”


  • “Sorry I’m just not comfortable lending my car to anyone”
  • “I know you’re a good driver, but I worry too much, and I if something goes wrong I will feel terrible / angry and I don’t want to do that”


  • “I have a policy about never lending out my books / CD`s”
  • “I’m much to attached to my books / CD`s to let them out of my sight”
  • “I have had a few bad experiences lending out (X). And I’m not prepared to risk our friendship over (X)”


  • “I’m happy to drive you there, but I can’t wait for you, you will have to catch a taxi back”
  • “I can take you as far as Cavendish, but then I have to veer off to Fish Hoek”
  • “It really wouldn’t be convenient today. I’ve got a million stops to make and I don’t know what time I’ll be back”
By |2016-11-18T10:04:05+00:00February 15th, 2012|Coaching, Conflict, Conversation models, Personal Mastery|Comments Off on “NO”

About the Author:

At StrategyWorks we work with the executives and the teams tasked with delivering strategy. Strategy can be set by decree but someone in the organisation must make it happen. At StrategyWorks we work with leaders tasked with executing strategy. Stephen coaches individuals and teams to align their thoughts around relevant information and structures to focus teams on delivery. Stephen is also keen on painting in watercolours.
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