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How to Say No When it’s Not So Simple (Sabrina Starling On Small Business)

3 min read

I often discuss the importance of saying no with busy, stressed-out business owners.

We all like the idea of saying no more often. But when it comes to actually doing it, I hear a lot of “yes, buts.”

In other words, “Yes, I could say no to that, but then who would do it?” or “Yes, I could say no to that, but they’d be disappointed.”

Why It’s So Hard to Say No

Most of us experiencing success have learned one lesson well: Say yes to opportunities that come your way; you never know where an opportunity will lead.

Well, look where that has led you: right to reading this article, looking for a solution to managing the stress from being overworked, overcommitted and packing your days full of to-do tasks.

We’re Better at Saying Yes Than No

Saying yes is easy, even if it means more stress and frustration down the road.

When you say yes, the person asking something of you smiles, thanks you and you are left happy that you have pleased someone. There is much emotional payoff in that.

Saying no is not immediately gratifying to us. Rationally, we know that saying no will mean we will feel less stressed in the future. But when we say no, we may feel guilty about disappointing the other person. Or we may fear the consequences of saying no. That’s why simply telling yourself to say no more often is not a very effective means of simplifying your life.

The Alternative

Contemplate saying yes with awareness of the no in every yes.

For every commitment we make, we are saying no to something else. Our time and energy are precious resources. But we act as though we can stretch ourselves thinner and thinner by cramming more into our days.

This does not work in the long term. Over time, we deplete our energy and burn out.

When you say yes to a new project, you will commit your time and energy to that project. But consider what you’re saying no to. Perhaps you are saying no to some relaxing time with your family, exercising or giving your best to a meaningful project.

It becomes much easier to say no when you are fully aware of the impact your choices have on your quality of life and your highest commitments.

What to Do Next

Let’s wrap up by considering this: What would you do with the extra time you create for yourself by saying no more strategically?

Try this over the coming month: Each time you are presented with a new opportunity, project or task, ask yourself, “What am I saying no to by saying yes in this situation?”

Write this question on paper and post it where you see it often. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to say no to opportunities that do not directly align with your business and personal goals.


Sabrina Starling, Ph.D., PCC, BCC, is the bestselling author of “How to Hire the Best” and “The 4 Week Vacation.” Founder of tapthepotential.com and host of the “Profit by Design” podcast, she and her team coach entrepreneurs to take their lives back from their businesses. They are on a mission to send 10,000 entrepreneurs on a four-week vacation in 10 years
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