Saying "No" to Difficult Requests

How to say "No" graciously, with guest Byron Katie.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #15

I love the phrase "Yes, Dear." It makes everything better at home. But not at work. Calling your boss "Dear" in public just doesn't cut it. Not even if you're married, or having an affair, or just being a smarmy corporate climber. The word "Dear" can get you ostracized, fired, and taken to court. But it's the word "Yes" that does the real damage.

Saying "No" Never Fails

Josh from St. Augustine, Florida asked "is there any productivity system that works 100% of the time?" The answer is, Yes, say "No." Too many "Yes"es overcommit us. If you say "Yes" to more than you can handle, you'll never, ever catch up. Period. It can't be done. Yet most of us have a very hard time saying "No," especially to our boss. "Miss my kid's soccer game because you screwed up the schedule again? Sure boss, I'd love to."

Why do we do this? If I'm going to be in a soul-destroying co-dependent relationship, why would I do it with my boss? I'd choose someone I love--like my snuggle bunny--to make me that miserable. But a better choice is learning to say "Yes" to yourself. Protect your boundaries. Only take on work you can handle. And say "No" when someone asks you to go past your limits.

The Consequences of Saying "Yes"

I can hear what you're thinking. "If I say No, I'll get fired.  My family won't love me. Other kids won't play with me. I'll die alone in a gutter, smelling of booze, missing several teeth." Yes, it could happen. And if you say "Yes," you'll overcommit, lose your family, lose yourself, and live alone in a cubicle, smelling of mouse pads, missing your life. Your choice. Sure, saying "No" has real consequences. It's just that saying "Yes" does, too. And most of us are way too scared of the consequences of "No," and not nearly scared enough of the consequences of "Yes."


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.