Learning How To Say “No”

It’s been my biggest weakness for a long time, I’m a nice guy and I genuinely want things to work out for people, and want to help people whenever I can. If you’ve ever written to me on my blog then you know that I respond to every single email, and with much more than a simple one or two sentence response. It feels good to help others, especially if I can see someone making a mistake that I once made, an this happens a lot.

What I’ve learned over time though is that there’s a difference between helping people and over-extending yourself. It’s okay to say “No” especially after you’ve already given some of your time to that person, and you can do it in a polite and professional way. Of course this extends far beyond people asking you for help, learning to say “No” in general can be the difference between you running a focused business, and doing too many things to keep track of.

I used to be the guy doing more things than I could keep track of. Then in 2009 I learned the power of creating a business, rather than a job for myself, and was able to literally split myself into eight people. I took on more projects but did less work, still, I had trouble saying no.

So what do I mean by trouble saying no?

I mean when people approach me to work on projects together, I felt bad saying no, so I’d say yes even if I couldn’t do it. If someone wanted to have a call with me I’d say yes in all cases, even if I didn’t have the time. Worst of all, I’d tell myself yes to everything, rather than setting a condition around when I should be saying yes, and when I really need to be saying “no”.

So I developed a new thought process, a new way to evaluate requests, whether they are from other people, or myself and it’s made a huge difference. Whether it is someone asking me to partner on a project, making an offer on a domain, or asking me to mention them on my blog I ask myself a few important question.

  1. Is this something I genuinely want to do? I have stopped doing projects I don’t love. If I think it’s a bad idea, I don’t do it, period. Sometimes this means breaking bad news to someone but I’ve learned to do this as gracefully as possible. Before I would do things just to make someone else happy even if it meant sacrificing my own time, and/or money. Now I know that I need to be fair to myself and the other person.
  2. Do I have the time to do it right? There are lots of great things I would love to do but I don’t always have the time to do them. I always look for cases where I can still “do” the thing someone is asking for, but without me doing it myself. I am very proud of the team I’ve built and many things can be done without me being directly involved. So if it’s a good idea, and I really want to do it, and know that it won’t need me directly involved, I’ll leverage my team and do it. If it does require me to make it happen, then I really need to evaluate if I have the time to do it right.
  3. Does it make business sense? Notice I’m not saying “does it make money,” these are two different things. I want to make sure I’m doing things that do make logical business sense. While I’d love to help someone out, I don’t want to set false hope around an idea that just doesn’t make any business sense. Once again, I’ve learned how to gracefully say, “I’m sorry but I don’t think this would work.” I do this nicely but also want to help in providing feedback. The last thing I want to do is tell someone their idea is great if I don’t really think it is.

I definitely say “No” much more than I used to, but I also find myself focused on things I love, and generally bigger ideas with greater potential. I work with great people, and have great people working for me. Life is all about balance and your time is the most precious asset you could ever had. Use your time wisely because we all only get so much of it, learning to say “No” really is one of the first steps towards taking back more of your time, and doing what you truly love.

So don’t be afraid to say “No,” just make sure when you do it, you do it nicely. You never know who you might cross paths with in the future and when those paths might converge in a way you never thought possible. Of course to all my blog readers out there, the answer is a very resounding “Yes” when it comes to answering your emails. It is something I genuinely want to do and I will always make the time to respond to absolutely everyone who takes the time to read what I write.

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton