Scaling The Ladder

The power of saying 'No'

Three ways the word “No” will benefit your future self

The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything” – Warren Buffet

Once upon a time, as brutally honest kids, we had no problem saying no.

However, if you were like me, you would have probably had that disobedience fiercely driven out of you through various means.

We’ve been taught that saying ‘no’ is not a nice thing to do; it is offensive, and the word is universally disliked by others. We restrict the usage, therefore, to express our unhappiness, negativity, and dislike for others.

Just like this cat.

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Over the years, we still carry the stigma into adulthood. If you want to be known as a decent person, you should always be cooperative and agreeable. You should always say yes, right?


Being a yes man (or woman) will only cause you more harm in the long run. If you can’t muster the strength to say no, you face the prospect of being stressed, frustrated, and disappointed with yourself. Others may start taking you for granted, and you may find that you are not living your life the way you want it.

Here’s why you should practice using this word regularly:

Saying No gives you freedom

Saying no frees you up to say yes when it matters most” - Adam Grant, Wharton School professor and author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.

By freedom here, we mean freedom to choose. Suppose you are agreeable all the time - you’ll be basically limiting your own freedom to choose what you really would like to do and what you wouldn’t. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a choice sometimes? Be a master of your own destiny. Decide what is important to you, and say no to the rest (politely, of course).

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Saying No gives you respect and quality

You set yourself boundaries when you practise saying no. You assert that you are not to be taken for granted, and that you have enough self-worth to not subject yourself to something you do not want to do.

More importantly, you display that you are someone of discernable standards – you’re not the person who’s going to say yes just to please everyone. You can differentiate between good quality work and inferior work, and would say no to the latter. Because of this, your team would know to present only their best to you.

Saying No saves you stress

When you take on too much onto your plate just to avoid the awkwardness of saying no, chances are you are going to be overloaded with work and other commitments.

You won’t have time to yourself to accomplish your own agenda or to produce quality work. Stress will then ensue. And in this circumstance, you won’t have anyone to blame but yourself, as you did not communicate your position regarding your assignment. Saying no is the simplest way to avoid this situation.

Having said all of the above, there is a fine line between having boundaries and being plain difficult to deal with.

Selfishness is a big no-no in any setting; whether in work, home, or among friends, and in your pursuit of becoming assertive, you definitely do not want to come off as being a jerk.

Therefore, before rejecting any kind of request coming your way, ask yourself these questions:

Am I putting any other priority at stake by saying yes?

Is my relationship with this person worth more than this request?

Do I have the authority or position to say no?

Has this person ever returned the favour?

Will the effort cost me more than it would benefit the requester?

Will I have enough time to commit to this request?

Will I be able to maintain my usual standards of quality work?

If after assessing your situation, you think that you have a valid case for saying no, then by all means do so, but do it tactfully.

Remember, you’re not out there to say no merely to assert your dominance and rub people the wrong way. There is always a polite way of doing everything, and this applies to the situation where you reject others.


Related articles:

Nine things you can do to be happier at work

Five tips for introverts to achieve success

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