20 Jan Just Say No! Don’t Say Yes and No.

just-say-no-funnyThink about the last time that you were asked to make a commitment that you really weren’t interested in.

Did you say no right away? Did you say yes, and then later say no? Did you say yes, and then show up and later regret it? Does someone keep asking and asking and asking to meet with you because you keep saying maybe? Were you worried about how the other person would feel if you said no? Do you have an over-commitment problem because you say yes to everything?

In the past six months, I spent some time pondering my inability to say no. Let me break down what I’ve learned, and how I learned it.

In August, an acquaintance going through a career transition reached out to me to see if he could “pick my brain.” I quickly said yes, but unfortunately I showed up unfocused and not present. I should’ve said right away, “Currently, I’m focusing my free time on a major project. Would you like me to send you a few resources that I really think could help? Or, I try to block off 2:30pm every Thursday for mentoring one-on-one’s … Would that time work for you in a couple months?”

In September, someone asked me to “meet for coffee” in order to tell me more about a network marketing business that they had started. I quickly said yes, but then I cancelled late after I looked at my over-scheduled week. I should’ve said right away, “Unfortunately, I’ve tried that business model in the past and I didn’t enjoy it. Let me think about some people who might be interested.”

In October, a sales rep asked me if I’d be interested in “grabbing a quick lunch” to network. I quickly said yes, and then I proceeded to put off the appointment. I should’ve said right away, “I’m not the person who makes that buying decision. Would you like me to point you in the right direction?”

In November, a friend asked me to “go to a sporting event” during the work week. I quickly said yes, but then I cancelled late the day before, so that I could spend time with my family. I should’ve said right away, “During the week, I try to block off nights to be with my family. Let me check my calendar to see if a different game might work.”

In December, a local business owner asked me to “be in a commercial.” I quickly said yes, but then I said no the next day, and then I said yes again, only to finally say no again. I should’ve said right away, “Thanks for asking. Unfortunately, I tried that once and it’s not my thing. If you’re interested, I’ll definitely send you a few names of people who would probably love it.”

In January, I was referred by a colleague to another organization that asked me to “speak for free.” I quickly said yes, and then I immediately said no. I should’ve said right away, “I have a few options and I’m sure that one of them will work for both of us. Would you like me to email them to you?”

You see, I’m a people pleaser. While I thoroughly enjoy connecting with people and I want to spend time with everyone, this behavior really shoots me in the foot. Unfortunately, I’m horrible at saying no and really good at half-way commitments … saying yes, and then no. I’m a wimp at standing firm.

Saying “NO” is professional … you know best what to do with your time, and saying “no” to others is acceptable.

Saying “YES, and then no” is UNprofessional … we need to be responsible and to honor our time commitments, and cancelling at the last minute is UNacceptable.

Click to Tweet: Saying “No” is acceptable. Saying “Yes, and then no” is UNacceptable. Honor your commitments. @derekdeprey #movetogrow

If you just said “no” to someone and feel awful, keep these things in mind…

  • Saying no is much easier than saying yes, and then no — this allows you to avoid cancelling late.
  • Saying no helps you be a better leader — this allows you to focus on your direct reports.
  • Saying no is not mean and is not selfish — this allows you to be honest with others.
  • Saying no provides laser focus — this allows you to spend time on your key passions and priorities.


Stand firm. Don’t be a wimp. It’s ok to say, “no”. It’s ok to say, “let me think about it”. It’s ok to ask for more information. It’s ok to offer different options.

Oh, and by the way, it’s 100% ok to say, “YES” … but before you agree to your next commitment, be aware of how often you tell others, “I’m so busy and stressed”.

ACTION: Before you commit to the needs of others, ask yourself a simple question, “Will this time commitment take away from my most important priorities and goals right now?” If the answer is yes, take the time to think about your answer before giving away one of your most valuable commodities … your time.

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