The Most Powerful Word You’re Not Saying Enough

Written by Ryan Cormier

Has anyone ever advised you to say “yes” more? It’s popular advice in today’s customer service-centric, value-add society. A simple “yes” can be powerful. It can also be toxic.

I’m here to make an argument for saying “no” more often. Curious as to why? Read on to learn exactly what I mean.

“No” makes you desirable.

 If you’re constantly saying “yes,” people will quickly assume they can rely on you for anything they ask. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about being “the guy” people call when a need arises. I just make sure I’m not always the one fulfilling that need. I’m a connector, and there’s value in that.

The fact is there are instances when you just have to say “no.” All too often, though, I hear people saying things like, “I hate to pass up this opportunity,” or, “This could be my only chance to get this business.” If you’re good, there will be plenty of other opportunities. Plus, saying “no” will actually make you more desirable. Remember how bad you wanted that toy your mom refused to buy you as a child? All the sudden you’ve become the toy.

“No” keeps you focused.

I won’t argue that saying “yes” frequently leads to new opportunities; that’s not always a good thing. If you’re like me – an entrepreneur launching a new digital marketing agency in a new city – you can’t afford distractions. You have to remain laser-focused on your work and goals. Saying “yes” too often clouds that focus. It can also cost you money in the long run – lots of it.

“No” helps you avoid burnout.

This is especially true for freelancers and moonlighters. I know firsthand just how difficult it is to say “no” to someone offering you cash money. The short-term benefit of getting paid makes it easy to overlook the long-term issue of burnout. Don’t let money influence your decision!

I look at it this way: If I take on a new, low pay gig, what am I really getting out of it? If the answer is a little money, I pass. Any freelancer or business owner that takes on a low budget project will tell you that scope creep is practically guaranteed, and you’re ultimately going to be paid far less than what your/your team’s efforts are worth. Not to mention the quality of your work goes down when you get burnt out with a project.

“No” allows you to be selective.

There are countless individuals and organizations with great ideas. What’s often most difficult is deciding which of those ideas are worth pursuing. If you don’t allow yourself to say “no” to ideas you’re not fully behind, you may hold yourself back from working on something truly groundbreaking.

Saying “no” allows you to monitor and maintain your personal bandwidth, which is invaluable when a remarkable idea crosses your path. 

“No” is good for your personal life.

Saying “no” can help you stay focused in your professional life; it pays dividends in your personal life, too. I used to find myself complaining that I was always working. When I assessed which activities were consuming the bulk of my free time, though, I discovered my insistence on saying “yes” had overloaded my personal calendar.

So how do you find balance between saying “yes” and maintaining your personal life? That’s the million dollar question right there!

work life balance

My technique is to value my personal time at a minimum of $100/hour. If a given opportunity won’t compensate me equivalently – in cash or in perceived personal value – my answer is “no.” 

The “no” challenge

I challenge you to say “no” at least one time this week. And when you do, really think about how it makes you feel. You just might find that the long-term benefits of a few strategic “no’s” far supersede the short-term benefits of “yes’s.”

Do you have an example of when saying “no” has had a positive impact on your work or personal life? If so, please share with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+!