Sabrina Starling PhD, PCC, BCC

How to Say “No” When it’s Not So Simple

"YES you can" on chalkboard
I often find myself discussing the importance of saying “no” with busy, stressed out business owners. In fact, just the other day, one of my Provendus peers was coaching me through a tough decision and he reminded me of the value of saying “no.” Ouch!

The truth is, we all like the idea of saying “no” more often. But, when it comes to actually doing it, I hear a lot of “yes, buts.” In other words, “Yes, I could say no to that, but then who would do it?” or “Yes, I could say no to that, but they’d be disappointed.”

Why is it so hard to say “no” to others?

Most of us experiencing success have learned one lesson really well–if you want to be successful, you have to be willing to do the work. Translation: say “yes” to opportunities that come your way–you never know where an opportunity will lead. Well, look where that has lead you. . . right to reading this article, looking for a solution to managing the stress from being overworked, overcommitted and packing your days full of “To-Do’s.”

The truth is, we are much better at saying “yes” than we are at saying “no.”

Saying “yes” is easy, even if it means more stress and frustration down the road. When you say “yes,” the person asking something of you smiles, thanks you, and you are left feeling happy that you have pleased someone. There is a lot of emotional payoff in that.

In contrast, saying “no” is not immediately gratifying to us. Although rationally we know that saying “no” will mean we will feel less stressed in the future, when we say “no,” we may feel guilty about disappointing the person who has made a request of us. Or, we may fear the consequences of saying “no.” What’s so good about that? Not much. That’s why simply telling yourself to say “no” more often is not a very effective means of simplifying your life.

So, what’s the alternative?

Contemplate saying “yes” with awareness of what the “no” is in every “yes.” For every commitment we make, we are saying “no” to something else. Our time and energy are precious resources. Yet, we act as though we can stretch ourselves thinner and thinner by cramming more and more into our days. This simply does not work in the long-term. Over time, we deplete our energy and we burnout.

When you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to something else in your life. So, when you say “yes” to a new project, you will be committing your time and energy to that project. What are you saying “no” to? Perhaps you are saying “no” to some relaxing time with your family, exercising, or giving your best to an important, meaningful project to which you already are committed. It becomes much easier to say “no” when you are fully aware of the impact your choices have on your quality of life and your highest commitments.

When does saying “no” really pay off? Saying “no” pays off in a big way when it comes to strategically designing your business to serve your Ideal Clients or Customers. Say “no” to work that generates revenue, but depletes time, energy and other limited resources. When you do, you free up precious resources to better serve your Ideal Clients or Customers.

What would you do with the extra time you create for yourself by “saying no” more strategically?

Try this over the coming month: Each time you are presented with a new opportunity, project, or task, ask yourself, “What am I saying ‘no’ to by saying ‘yes’ in this situation?” Write this question on a piece of paper and post it where you see it often. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to say “no” to opportunities that do not directly align with your business and personal goals.

Article written by :
Sabrina Starling PhD, PCC, BCC
Dr. Sabrina Starling, The Business Psychologist™ and author of the How to Hire the Best series is the founder of Tap the Potential. Tap the Potential specializes in transforming small businesses into highly profitable, Great Places to Work! Never one to accept status quo or back down from a challenge, Dr. Sabrina’s How to Hire the Best series grew from her desire to solve the toughest hiring challenges interfering with her clients' growth and profitability. What sprang from her experience working with entrepreneurs in rural areas catapulted her into becoming the world's leading expert in attracting top talent in small businesses — no matter what hiring challenges those businesses are facing — and earned Tap the Potential’s reputation as the go-to resource for entrepreneurs committed to creating Great Places to Work with thriving coaching cultures and highly engaged team members working from strengths. With her background in psychology, and years of driving profit in small business, Dr. Starling knows what it takes to find, keep and get exceptional performance out of your biggest investment — your team members. Visit Dr. Sabrina and the Tap the Potential Family at While you’re there, be sure to check out all the great resources, including Dr. Sabrina’s most in-demand webinar, How to Make Your Time Worth 10K an Hour.
Related Posts

4 Responses to How to Say “No” When it’s Not So Simple

  1. Fred Pieplow says:

    Dr. Sabrina – I have “What am I saying ‘no’ to by saying ‘yes’ in this situation?” taped to the key board on my laptop! Thanks for the post.

  2. Dr. Sabrina says:

    That’s awesome, Fred!

  3. Is there a way to build of my “no” courage. I mean… should start out with small easy no’s and then do bigger ones later. Or is it better to tear off the band aid so to speak and say the big no’s from day one?

    • Dr. Sabrina says:

      Ah! Great question, Mike. It certainly is easier to “start small” and build our courage muscle. BUT, when you say “no” to the big things, the payoff and rewards are much greater. To build your courage muscle, pay attention to what usually happens when you say “no” — you feel a huge weight being lifted from your shoulders!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.