Save Your Time: Learn to Say “No”

Posted under Time Management on Monday 17 November 2008 at 10:16 pm

Your sister asked you to babysit her child, your boyfriend calls you every night and makes you listen to his mindless jokes, your colleague regularly asks you to cover up for her or help her to finish the report as soon as possible, your best friend is looking for a job and repeatedly asks you to talk to your boss about him. Isn’t this familiar to you? “No” is such a simple word, which, however, is sometimes very difficult to say instead of “I’ll be glad to help you!” How many times you have said “yes” and agreed to do something which is not important to you? In how many situations you should have said “no” but felt responsible or polite to the others? Tell me truly, was it always the best solution, to say “yes“?

Just Say NoOne of the first rules for those, who want to learn how to prioritize, is to get rid of enforced things and “duties”. You should learn to say “no” in those situations, when the others try to force you to do something that is not in your plans or has nothing to do with your personal goals and values. Learn to set personal boundaries and protect your own sanity, otherwise you will soon feel exhausted and overloaded with your own issues and your “obligations” to help, to be there, to listen, to look after, and so on. Be selective and choose only the battles you truly want to fight for other people. Do not go with the flow, and only in such case you will be able to achieve your personal and professional goals.

Now, you can say “Wait! You want me to say “no” to my friends and people who really need my help in order to save my time? You want me to ignore their needs and earn a fame of a hard-hearted and ill-mannered person?” And I will say – “No!“This is the last idea I would like to promote, because in our daily life we do really need to help and support our friends and close people a lot. All I want you to understand is that saying “yes“to never ending non-critical daily demands that are re-placed onto your shoulders can take your attention off your own priorities, affect your chances to achieve success and limit your personal freedom to a great extent!

Certainly, reliable people who are always ready to assist and support are of a great value in any society, however, there must be limits. Moreover, frequently your friends do not seem to appreciate your readiness to help at any time. That is why you must learn compromise. Certainly, when it is really necessary and does not ruin your plans, you can babysit your niece one day or talk to your boss about your friend as a new potential employee. This way you will demonstrate your love and concern about your close people. However, if you can not do this by some reason, do not be afraid to say “no“, politely but assertively.

Our society is stricken with “a disease to please“, that is why saying “no” is strictly connected with certain fears of breaking down the people we love by refusing to help them, as well as fears of hurting someone’s feelings or being rejected for such behavior. The only way to prevent all these negative effects of saying “no” is to deliver the message in the most effective way. There are some tips for those, who want to master this effective technique:

  • Do not accompany your “no” with weak and unrealistic excuses. Ask for some time to think over the request and find the most rational and clear supportive arguments for your negative answer.
  • In some situations it makes sense not to say “no” directly, but use some verbal signs to demonstrate your negative response. However, if you know that the person you are dealing with can be too very insistent and will go on bothering you all the time, it is better to say a direct and assertive “no“. Moreover, for some people only aggressive “no” will work: “Are you kidding? Me, picking your laundry on Sunday morning while you are out of town?
  • Use logical explanations for your negative answers. Make a person understand that there is something more important to you than the request. “You know, I would gladly give you a lift, but Mrs. Hauer have asked me to pick her up, and you truly hate each other, don’t you?
  • Use non-verbal signs to show the person that you do not really want to do what is requested. Speak with a firm and assertive voice and look into the person’s eyes when saying “no“. Be honest and polite. Some of the best ways to start your speech are: “I’m sorry, but I must turn down your request this time because…” or “Oh, I wish I could help you now, but…

Do not think that a refusal to give a hand to other people with their daiy duties is something to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. Saying “no” is an honorable answer! You and only you are the master of your personal time, and nobody else has a right to trench upon your time and use it for satisfying own needs. Learn to say “no” and be ready to hear “no” from other people as well. However, the effects can be really positive: you will be valued and respected for your “yes” and for your “no“. The main idea is to make people around you understand that saying “no” does not turn a person into your enemy.


  1. Comment by George — November 19, 2008 @ 2:53 am

    Good article. Yes we all need to learn saying “NO” for a request that takes valuable time from us.

  2. Comment by Ken — May 30, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

    I agree. But sometimes saying no is hard when you are feeling pressure from a group of people. Nice article and thanks for sharing.

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