The Power of No

When the phone rings and it’s the PTA president asking you to make 100 cupcakes for the bake sale tomorrow, what’s your first response? “Sure, I’d be happy to.”  But in the back of your head you’re thinking, “How the {bleep} am I going to fit that into an already packed schedule?”

Or it’s 4:30pm and your boss comes to you with a project she needs completed by 9am tomorrow. You have dinner plans with some friends you have been planning to see for months and you know they can’t reschedule, but what flies out of your mouth. “No problem. I’ll have it on your desk by 9.”

Couldn’t you just kick yourself? Why are we so afraid to just say no and take ownership of our own schedules? When did it become taboo to admit that you have to make choices with your time and what someone is asking of you may not fit?


It has crept into society because we are afraid. Afraid of not being liked. Afraid of being the odd man out. Afraid of being rude. Afraid of hurting another’s feelings. Afraid of being viewed poorly and afraid of conflict.

Are those fears justified? Sometimes yes, but if you are truly living life according to your goals and dreams then every choice you make must move you closer to accomplishing them. You cannot be led by fears.

Deciding to Say No

You must know your priorities and make decisions with your time based on them. When each request for your time or energy comes in the there is a simple litmus test to run:

  • Does this help me get closer to my goals or objectives?
  • Am I the best person to do this?
  • Can I fit this into my schedule?

If the answer to all three is yes then accept the invite or request. If the answer to any or all of them is no then then you need to politely decline. Unfortunately, this is where many people struggle.

Just Say No

The important thing to remember is that you are in charge of your time. You do not have to justify your decisions or explain them to anyone (except maybe your spouse and occasionally your boss). So when declining a request, don’t apologize – Just Say No.

By being firm in your response and not dancing around it, you will appear strong and confident. Over explaining can come off weak and open the door for the other party to rebut your decline and try to change your mind. Your decision is not up for negotiation so simply state it and move on.

Learning to say no to requests that don’t meet your needs is an important first step in living a life of your choosing. So remember: If someone is upset that you declined, that is their problem, not yours. They will get over it and move on and you will have chalked up another small win in the battle against your calendar.


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