The Power of saying no – Unspun

The power of saying no

Learning to say "no" can be transformational. By saying no more often, I became happier, improved my health and became more successful at work.

Keep scrolling to learn how you can benefit from using this small but powerful word a little more often.

But I hate letting people down!

It can be scary to say no. You might think you're letting people down or that saying no will negatively impact your career progression. You might worry it appears selfish, but it's quite the opposite.

One thing that’s easy to overlook is that nobody else has a complete view of all your commitments. Most people have no idea how many projects you're working on, they don't know when you are caring for loved ones, and they don't know when you want to work out. It's not their responsibility to know when you're at your maximum capacity. That’s your job.

When you confidently and concisely explain why you can't do something, people usually accept it and value your time more. Always saying yes makes your time seem cheap and readily available.

To ensure others value your time, you need to value it highly yourself.

This was absolutely the case for me. When working for a large management consulting firm, I reported to many people, none of whom had any idea what else I was working on. As a young consultant, it was tempting to say yes to everyone, but I soon learned that people would keep asking until you reach breaking point. This isn’t good for anyone. Once I began to (diplomatically) say no, I was able to manage my time more effectively and perform better. 

How you can get better results by saying no

The next bit is critical. Saying no dramatically impacts the quality of what you can do. In the context of work, it's much easier to do 1 or 2 things really well than 10 things poorly. Of course, it feels good to be more focused, but it also positively impacts your career. No one will promote you for doing a lot of work badly, but they will reward you for doing one thing exceptionally well.

This translates into home life as well. If you're always helping others and never putting yourself first, you’re more susceptible to becoming stressed out and unhealthy. Once you start saying no to things that are not your priority, you can focus more on the moments that matter with your kids, friends, or other people who are truly important to you.

Saying yes to too many things also takes a physical toll. If you don't make time to care for your body, you will eventually run out of steam, becoming unwell and exhausted, and unable to help anyone else. There’s a reason you are asked to put your own mask on first in the event of a plane crash. You can't help others if you're unable to help yourself.

How to start saying no (without offending anyone)

Having said all this, I know it can be scary to say no, especially at first. So here are a few tips.

If you’re at work, it’s always good to have a reason and offer an alternative solution. For example:

"I can't work on this right now as I am focused on other priorities. If that's more critical to the business, let me know, and I can reprioritise my work."


"That's not something I can take on with my current workload, but I could tackle it next week if we reduce the scope to 'x'"

A blunt no may not be well-received, especially if you're in a junior position. However, explaining your reasons shows you understand business priorities, helps you earn respect, and increases the perceived value of your time.

At home, the situation is similar, but hopefully, those in your personal life highly value your wellbeing, allowing you to focus in on this aspect in your reasoning.

"I'm sorry, but that time doesn't work for me as it's when I have my morning workout scheduled.”


“That's the time that I do 'x', which is really important to me."

 If they continue to push, then play the conversation back to them. This can help people realise when they are being unreasonable. Something like:

"So you want me to miss my workout out so I can help you with your thing even though you know how much I like doing this."

My final tip is to appeal to people's good nature. When framing your replies, focus on thanking them for their understanding (positive) rather than apologising for saying no (negative).

"Thanks for your understanding” rather than "I'm sorry, I can't”. 

This changes the dynamic. You’re framing the conversation positively and expressing gratitude. This is a powerful technique that increases empathy and reduces aggression. 

Final thoughts

I hope this article has inspired you to say no more often and demonstrated that if you want people to value your time, you need to start valuing it yourself.

By prioritising your wellbeing and boundaries, you not only enhance your health and relationships but also pave the way for greater success in all aspects of life.

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