I used to be a yes girl. I’d say yes to everything.

Volunteering on a committee? Check.

Coffee meetings to pick my brain? Check.

Travel to your side of town for a meeting even though it inconvenienced me? Check.

Every work opportunity whether paid or unpaid? Check.

A date with a guy I didn’t really like? Check. (Maybe he had cute friends!)

I actually didn’t know how to say no, and on the rare occasion I did, I felt like I was letting people down.

Recently a friend shared that he had just said no to a potential client and he felt sick about it. I could relate because that’s how I used to be.

saying no is not a sign of weakness

Image: Shutterstock

When we say yes to everything we risk teetering on the edge of burnout. When we start to say no, we take back some control over our lives. We need to remember that no is a complete sentence.

When we say yes to everything we risk teetering on the edge of burnout. When we start to say no, we take back some control over our lives. Click To Tweet

Author Paulo Coelho said “When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” 

I’ve learnt that saying no is often far more powerful than saying yes. It’s the sign of someone who is clear in who they are and what they want, and someone who knows how to look out for themselves.

When I first started to say no I used to practice while looking in the mirror. Seriously. I would stand there and say no thank you to a whole lot of real scenarios that I had previously said yes to. And had buyers remorse from! These days, thankfully, I’m extremely clear about what I want and what I need to do to get it. And I’m also very clear on what I’m prepared to compromise on to get to a yes if my first inclination is to say no.

So how exactly do you say no in an elegant way? In a way that is firm, polite and won’t have the recipient continually begging you to say yes? These are a few ways that work for me:

  • No thank you. (In a firm and polite voice that the asker won’t argue with – and then if they say “are you sure?” you can say yes)
  • Thank you however I’m not available.
  • Thank you however it’s not right for me right now. (Be aware that this is a yes in disguise and should only be used if you genuinely think you might say yes in the future).
  • Thank you however I’m not the right person for the job – would you like me to refer you to someone else?
  • Thank you however my diary is quite full.
  • Thank you however I’m already committed on that date.

What about you? Are you a yes person or a no person? How do you say no in an elegant way? I’d love to know.

Mel Kettle is all about connection, communication and collaboration. She works with CEOs, leaders and teams to help them better communicate and collaborate (online AND offline) to achieve better relationships, revenue and results. Mel is a facilitator, trainer, speaker, author and mentor who provides practical advice that achieves results while having some fun!

Download her latest whitepaper, The Social CEO – from invisible to influencer or order a signed copy of her book, The Social Association. To inquire about working with Mel, please email mel@melkettle.com or call her on 0404 600 889.

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