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How to Get Better At Saying “No”

By Michael Zipursky

Your kindness and generosity can be a great threat to your business.

As your business becomes more successful, as your career rises to new heights, you start getting a LOT of requests from people…

The better you get at saying “No” the more productive you’ll be and the faster you’ll reach your goals.

…friends, colleagues, people that read your materials or saw you speak at an event…all kinds of people start asking you for “just a few minutes of your time” to help them. To answer their questions. To show them what they need to do to become successful.

You may be inclined to say “Yes” to everyone that makes this request.

If that’s the case, you may be hurting yourself and your business more than you think.

It Feels Good

I consider myself a kind and generous person. I often go out of my way to help others. I do it because it feels good to help.

At the same time, if I took a few minutes to respond to every single request I get I’d literally have no time left in the day for productive work – work that moves my business forward.

We all face distractions throughout the day. Those of us that learn to eliminate as many of those distractions as possible get the most done.

That’s why the most prolific authors can write a book in less than 6 weeks – while it takes others a year or more. It’s not that the first author is a ‘better’ writer. It’s because they know how to manage their time and focus on writing without letting other distractions creep in.

It’s Not What You Think

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying…I’m not suggesting that you stop helping people when you can. I encourage kindness and generosity at all times.

What’s important is that you put your priorities first. That you’re clear on your goals and have a clear and defined schedule and structure to make the progress you want and deserve.

Put those things first. Make them your priority. Start your day by completing them. And once they are done, then go back to your emails and respond to people or call them back to offer your help.

One of the best decisions you can make is to close your door and put a Do Not Disturb sign on it. Let people know that you’re busy for the next 90 minutes and can’t be disturbed for any reason.

The better you get at saying “No” the more productive you’ll be and the faster you’ll reach your goals.

After all, if you can’t help yourself, how are you in the position to help others?

17 thoughts on “How to Get Better At Saying “No”

  1. Guest says:

    Thanks so very

  2. Thanks so very much Michael for this post. I see this happen all the time with my clients. It’s also a practice I continue to struggle with. I find that non-profit organizations or social causes attract people who love to be helpful. Its in their nature to be in the service to others. Ultimately it hurts them and their cause when they try to please everyone. I usually suggest that they do 2 things; 1. To focus on how saying “no” will help the other person. “Nurturing people” struggle with a psychological barrier when saying no or letting others down. So helping them to focus on the helpful end goals can alleviate the pain of short term disappointments. 2. To say no with a suggestion. Face it we all hate hearing no. The way to help nurturing people get over the fear of letting others down and to help the needy people not feel rejected is to give them the knowledge to move forward. For example, you can say, “sorry, I can’t help you, BUT I can suggest who you can speak with.” You’ve alleviated your time & obligation and you’ve provided them with direction. These suggestions, when practice upon, can increase your worth and your efficiency with your business clients. I hope these suggestions help your audience. Thank you so very much again, Michael. Great topics as usual. All the best success.

  3. Guest says:

    Thanks for this article…..spoke to me directly.

  4. Sreenatha Reddy K R says:

    Thank You Michael for advice on saying NO…


    Thank you Mike. You have spoken to me directly to help me solve a problem I have been struggling with. Every morning before I go to work, I prepare my “to do list”. But when I get to office a lot of people troop in with the problems. I often can not say no to their request because I believe God planted me here to help people. Some times, at the end of the day, I do not achieve my objective for the day and I curse my self for not sticking to the day’s “to do list”. You have now given me a perfect solution to this problem which is hanging on my neck.
    I salute you Sir.

  6. Miora says:

    I used to say Yes because I think that it helps but finally i take account that it hurts me and become an habit so now It difficult to drop away this bad character to always say Yes but because of your help I ll to try again and again till I reach my goal to say NO

  7. sheyi says:

    Wonderful write-up

      • Martin says:

        Michael, great article, sadly I fall into this field by trying to help and please everyone I work with. I go from being the boss to the employee of my employes. My work gets put on the back burner and I end up taking care of other people problems then burning the midnight oil to finish my projects. Not a good route. I will start by making people respect my time and get them to do their own work. Martin

  8. Larry James says:

    Great article, and very true. That same perspective can be used with money also.

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