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The Ability to Say No

15 July 2023

As Steve Jobs said:

“The ability to say NO is incredibly difficult but it’s the most effective way to remain focused and not lose sight of what is important.”

Knowing how to say NO is a fundamental skill for any professional. As is the case with many other skills needed by everyone, personally and professionally, we are not taught to say NO. For this reason, many times we say YES when we shouldn’t, or we say NO in the wrong way, which affects our reputation, image and even our relationships.

Probably, at some point in your life you have found yourself in the situation where you should say NO but you didn’t know how to do it or didn’t dare say it.

With this post you will learn to understand why it is so necessary to know how to say NO, as well as learn the consequences of not knowing how to do it. Most importantly, you will learn a concrete method and the art of saying NO.

Why we are afraid to say no

Throughout our lives, there will be situations in which:

– We are asked or requested to do something that is not acceptable.

– We are victims of abusive behavior.

– A situation occurs that does not work or is not fair and we must change it.

The most typical or classic reactions to these situations can be

– Settle, and say YES when we should say NO.

– Attack, or say a NO in a bad way that can cause conflict with the other party.

– Avoidance, do not say anything. Hope the problem will solve itself when we actually know it will not be.

With all these reactions will drag out the problem itself, and risk it transforming into a serious crisis and endangering our interests or our relationships.

Therefore, we can say that the tension arises between protecting our interests vs. our relationship with the other party.

It’s also possible that on occasion, we are afraid of saying NO because of the fear that:

– People will get angry with me thinking I don’t want to help or that I don’t like them.

– We are afraid to stand up to power or authority.

– Out of compassion, if I say NO, they will be in a difficult or complicated situation.

– Simply because I don’t know how to say NO.

– Or other reasons as good or as bad as the ones mentioned.


However, we must accept that to say NO, is to act positively with people.

A NO can be much better than a YES when we know that we will not or should not keep our promises.