How to Effectively Say No (Part 2 of 3)

Learn models for saying no.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #108

Mahatma Ghandi said, "A ‘No’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please or what is worse, to avoid trouble.” Today we’ll continue with part two of our three-part article on how to say no. If you haven’t already read part one, you might want to do that first.

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How to Say No (Part 2)

I believe the ability to say no effectively is a skill that’s critical to personal and professional success. It’s essential for focus and discipline. Every day, sometimes several times a day, we have to say no so that we are able to say yes to the things that are really important to us.

In the last installment I was talking about how to decide when to say no and I suggested a three-question “should you say no” quiz. The final question is:

Am I capable of successfully performing this particular task?

To be able to answer this question, first evaluate how much time is involved. Try to be as realistic as possible, taking into consideration invisible tasks. Then consider everything that you are currently doing and how much time you have to dedicate to a new task. Notice that is different from asking, can I add it to my schedule? If your available time doesn’t fit the size of the task, then say no. If it’s important to you, consider alternatives that would still allow you to participate or contribute to the task but on a smaller scale so that it can fit your schedule.

For example, instead of being the PTA vice-president or a room parent, commit to helping with just one activity, such as volunteering to set up chairs in the gym on back-to-school night. The objective is to properly size the effort (again if it is something that is consistent with your values and goals) and say yes only to what you’re able to effectively complete.  

Think About Your Own Abilities

Before answering this question you should also think about your skill set. Is what you’re being asked to do something that you’re good at? If not, perhaps a more effective use of time would be to do something else and politely pass along this task to someone else.

Keep in mind that the main goal of going through this self-quiz is to help you say no. When you know exactly when and why you’ll want to yes, it makes it far easier to say no--and much easier to sustain a no in the face of resistance.

You might be saying “Well, yes, Lisa, I know I should say no, but I don’t want to damage my relationship (with my boss, with my prospect, my father, my grandmother, with my significant other, etc.) So the key is to learn how to say no without damaging important relationships. So let me share with you a few models that you can use.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.