5 Times It's Better to Say No

It’s almost always easier to say “yes” than “no”–in the short run.

“Yes, it’s okay for you to treat me that way.”

‘Yes, I’ll stay late tonight and miss dinner again– after all my wife won’t say ‘no.’ “

“Yes, it’s okay skip my workout.”

“Yes, your work is fine” (even though it could be better.)

A close second to expectation violations, the inability to say “no” is one of the top sources of intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict in organizations.

Misplaced yeses sabotage relationships, goals, and well-being.

5 Times It’s Better To Say “No”

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right.
These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”  -W. Clement Stone

Finding the courage to say “no” to what’s wrong, is a powerful fuel for start to saying “yes” to what matters most.

  1.  Say “No” to Rude or Disrespectful Behavior
    Sure it’s easier to ignore the situation. After all, who needs more drama? But allowing a co-worker or boss to treat you with disrespect slowly undermines your confidence, and sends a clear message that you’re willing to accept that behavior from him or her and any casual observers. Say “yes” to civil treatment at work.
  2. Say “No” to Time Wasters
    These come in the form of people or activities. Say “no” to stupid work that doesn’t propel your mission and goals. Say “no” to the guy who’s always hanging around your cube. Say “yes” to achieving your goals.
  3. Say “No” to Your Boss’ Harebrained Idea
    Yes you can. Trust me, your boss will thank you for carefully putting on the brakes. Speak up. Read more on how to here. Say “yes” to doing what’s right.
  4. Say “No” to Negative Self-Talk
    It’s easy to talk ourselves out of our own success. Say “yes” to positive thinking.
  5. Say “No” to Scope Creep
    You’ve outlined the project and the deliverables, but the “just one more” requests keep getting tagged on, without renegotiated deadlines or compensation. It’s okay to say “No, I can’t do that right now, or under our current terms,” while saying “yes” to “I’d be happy to talk to you about that as phase 2.” Say “yes” to renegotiation.

Say “no” to respect your best yes. Say “no” with the confidence to do what’s right, and the humility to know what matters.

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Communication and tagged , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. Another important conversation here, Karin! It took me a long time to say no to invasions into my personal life that caused big problems. I’ve missed far too many school concerts, field trips and class parties. I’ve also missed concerts and dinners with friends.

    Not every time can we put our personal commitments first, but if they’re always last on the list because we never say no, we’re showing the world (and our boss and colleagues) what are priorities truly are and the requests will keep on coming.

  2. As hard as this is in the for profit world, it’s even harder in the non profit arena. After all, we’re talking about issues, sometimes of life and death…not to be overly dramatic.

    The hardest thing is for me to know how to lead by saying no to a case that we shouldn’t take, and even harder is knowing when to encourage your team that it is ok to say no. Because pushing ourselves is actually really good, but it can lead to burn out. Thanks Karin, and Namaste.

    • Bill, I can’t even imagine how hoard that must be. You are doing vital work and impacting many lives. So hard to say no to people in need, but it’s also impossible to help everyone. Thanks so much for adding this to the conversation!

  3. I have a hard time saying no when I think people will feel let down. I never want to disappoint family or colleagues but sometimes I just need to protect myself.
    I learned that setting up boundaries can be an effective way to manage saying no. Otherwise I get stretched too thin and can’t be my best.

    Thanks Karin for such an important discussion!

    • Terri, Great add. So agree, being clear on boundaries can really help. That way it doesn’t feel so personal.

  4. One other area where telling “no” is powerful is to your customers. There are times when its better not to go ahead with a deal than doing so. In such situations its powerful to say no and walk away by pointing them to an alternate solution!

    • Mukesh, Oh yes! That’s another great addition. I find that very hard, but also sometimes necessary.

  5. Saying yes to one person oftentimes means saying no to someone else. Unfortunately, the most important people (family, self) usually get the no…because “they will understand.” We end up sacrificing in the wrong places and, as Alli said, sending the wrong message about our priorities. It is important to consider the cumulative effects of each decision and make sure to keep long-term priorities aligned.

    • David, What a great way to think about it…” the cumulative effects.” Excellent. Thanks for the add.

  6. Another important topic, Karin! Love the way you address issues we all experience no matter where we are in the organization!

    I often have a hard time saying NO, as well!

    As a result, my overloaded schedule causes unneeded stress and missed opportunities…great reminders to keep priorities at the forefront of our thinking before saying YES to yet one more thing….

    • LaRae,
      Thanks as always for your addition. Yeah, I’m almost always guilty of an overloaded schedule.

  7. Hi Karin

    I’ve had to learn two really important lessons about saying “no” during my career.

    1) No – because I can’t give 100%. Like a lot of people, I want to please others. I’ve learned that if you aren’t excited about doing something or are already overburdened, it’s better to say “no”. In these cases, I’ll often try and find an alternative solution that involves the right person for the job.

    2) No – clearly, but with empathy. Don’t leave any room for confusion, but be nice about it. The person to whom you are delivering this message is going to be disappointed and perhaps frustrated. Making sure they understand that it was ok to ask is an important outcome, otherwise they might not come back again.

    Kind Regards.

    David Pethick
    Co-Founder, http://leading.io

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