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5 Steps You Should Take to Say No and Be Better in Your Business

A big NO on the Wall by Steve Boneham

A big NO on the Wall by Steve Boneham

Saying no is not a bad thing. Yet saying no doesn’t come easy for most people. No is actually something you should learn how say and use in business. No forces you to focus on what is important. If you don’t say no you end up with way too much on your to-do plate. You, your team and business become diluted as your attention fragments. Eventually you become ineffective, stressed and frustrated. If you say no you end up creating a list of things that you, your business and the people you work with should not be doing. You created not-to-do list that will become larger than your yes list. Nothing wrong with that as telling people no or have a not-to-do list helps you say yes to the things you want or need to do. That is a major win for everybody.

So let’s start with the 5 steps you should take to say no. In later blogs I will explore the creation of the not-to-do list and how to use if effectively in your business. I guess you can say that this blog stream will have several parts.

5 Steps You Should Take to Say No and Be Better in Your Business (for that matter life)

  1. Use Needs Assessment: This is a skill you need to master, period. It is an important part of all decision making. In this case understand the request on your time, money and resources from the requesting person or organization. Make sure you understand their needs but also you need to have a set of criteria to determine if the request makes sense or not for you. Know your boundaries and priories. Use a set of criteria in the needs assessment and make your decision accordingly.
  2. Straight Up is Always Better: My kids learned a long time ago that if I say “I’ll think about it that usually meant yes”. They just needed to be patient. If they won’t then it would be a no. I was teaching them a lesson, I guess. That tactic is not always the best approach. Business people need to know where you stand. Don’t be afraid to respectively decline. Be a Canadian and say, I’m sorry but I can’t do that or no your request doesn’t fit with our present mandate. Whatever the request insure you provide your reasoning.
  3. Be Polite About It: It is important in your straight forwardness to be respectful of the requestor. No need to
    be nasty. Politeness always wins and is a form of a life line that keeps you connected with the people or organization you are saying no to. It is about maintaining engagement, relationship and self preservation for all parties involved. Maybe there is something else you can do for them, a suggestion maybe.
  4. Prepare for the Response: Saying no may not be easy but might be the only way. People will respond to your no and it may not always be a positive response. My favorite response I received from a professional organization was, what do you mean no! Surprised me at first considering they wanted a 300 hour commitment. In this case I focused on working with the person’s reaction to my no. They were frustrated. So I inquired about their frustration and presented my decision making and business requirements. They were surprised to learn why I had to say no. I too learned something about their needs. When you say no don’t take the other persons reaction personally. There may be another issue.
  5. Practice Makes Perfect: I always loved this saying. Because we all have learned it from the time we were kids. The thing is you need to be practicing the right skill. Practicing the wrong saying no skills won’t help you. Saying no starts with setting your boundaries, knowing what you don’t want any longer and practicing it out loud. Tell your friends that you need to learn to say no. Have them hold you accountable for this learning and practice with them. In business consider hosting a saying no session. The objective would be to achieve clarity on the importance of saying no, how to say no and the ways to ensure you gain the outcomes required. Eventually saying no will become easier.

There are many reasons to say no. Some people find saying no a real challenge. Acknowledging you have this difficulty is a good thing. You now have a place to start from to develop a set of rules and boundaries that could work for you in your business. To get clear on what is important to you consider creating things-to-say-no-to-list. Start by practicing saying no to those things first. If an employee or business partner makes a request of you or your organization that does not fit the business mandate ensure that you have your readymade reasoning available. But don’t say anything until you evaluate the other persons request, don’t be harsh and be respectful. Learning to say no to the right things will improve your business and personal life. It’s just the way it is.


Richard Lannon: Raised in an entrepreneurial family, Richard learned to find opportunities, solve problems and implement solutions quickly. During his career he became a strategist, helping organizations find the road to their success. His cross-industry experience has made him a proven expert, one who has worked with a big four consulting firm, top tier corporations, mid-level enterprises, and small business leaders from around the world.

Business author,professional speaker, and coach, Richard guides you to actionable roadmap as the means to your business

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