Are you saying yes too often? - Michelle Gibbings

Have you ever had a time when you said ‘yes’, and then seconds later got the feeling of dread and regret as you thought to yourself  ‘Why did I just agree to that?”

It can be easy to say ‘yes’.  It saves explaining why you don’t want to do something, you worry about letting someone down or the consequences if you say ‘no’.  As well, in many situations you are conditioned to say ‘yes’.

American author, Josh Billings (pseudonym of Henry Wheeler Shaw) said “Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.”

Do you have clear guidelines as to what you will say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ to, and how you’ll respond?

I recently got a no back from a request I made. It went like this:

 My general philosophy in life is to have a big YES inside you regarding your purpose & goals so that you know what you want to do which makes it easier to say NO to things that don’t fit with that.  So I’m going to say no, not for any reason other than it would take time away from things that I prefer to dedicate my limited spare time to.

I really liked this response for three reasons.  It was:

• Clear and unambiguous as to the reason
• Unapologetic as to why it wasn’t something they would do
• Fast.  I got the ‘no’ within an hour of the request being made

When you constantly say ‘yes’ to things you don’t want to do, you ultimately give up your voice and disempower yourself.

The acclaimed author Paulo Coelho said: “When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself”.  Everyone has the right to say what they want and don’t want.
If you are wondering where to start a list has even been created for consideration of things that could be worth saying ‘no’ to.

The key is to be clear on how you want to say ‘no’ so it’s done in a way that is respectful and authentic.

Here’s six things to consider:

1. Start by asking why not, so you are clear on the real reason for saying ‘no’ and can ensure it is legitimate and that you won’t regret your decision later on
2. Stand in your conviction so you back yourself and why you won’t be doing something.  This means you deliver the message with compassion and resolve, and you demonstrate your understanding of the other person’s perspective.
3. Be fast with your ‘no’.  If you delay and prevaricate it can make the situation harder for the other person as they have less time to find an alternate course.
4. Be clear on your reason for saying ‘no’, and specific when you tell those involved.  Just saying ‘no’ and nothing else can be interpreted as rude or disinterested.  Instead, express your statement positively and explicitly.  For example, “I wish I could be involved. However, I already have the agreed list of projects I need to finalise this quarter so unfortunately there’s no capacity to take on more”.
5. Be genuine in your response and make sure you are open to hearing the other person’s point of view.  They have the right to express disappointment or discontent about the fact you have said ‘no’ to something they want.  Listen to them and ensure they feel heard
6. Don’t ruminate over the decision.  Once you’ve said ‘no’ be comfortable with your decision and move on.

Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®.

Until next week.

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’. For more information: or contact

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