How to say no to people to keep focus on your own goals

How to say no to people to keep focus on your own goals

If you want to be highly productive in life and keep focus on your own goals, you have to learn how to say no. It might sound harsh to say no to people almost all the time, especially because feelings of guilt can kick in, but it’s really an easy thing to do. The trick is to make “no” your default answer to everything.

Your decision making shouldn’t start with the question – “should I do that or not”. Your decision making should start with “absolutely no”. Then you can start convincing yourself otherwise.

You can ask yourself a few questions like:

  • Will I earn a decent amount of money doing that?
  • Does the project involves minimum risks and huge potential rewards?
  • Will I enjoy the activity like crazy?
  • Does the person asking me to collaborate really matter to me, and so on.

If you can’t find an argument for a huge impact on your life in terms of progress towards your goals, big monetary value, working with people you admire or experiencing something awesome, your answer should just stay no. The only thing left to do then is to find a nice way to say no to people.

You can say that you’re too busy, that you would love to, but you just don’t have the time, or you can just be honest and say that you’re not interested. Just don’t lie, be as honest as possible while staying nice. At the end of the day, it’s always better to directly say no than to be indecisive or even say yes, and then you don’t deliver what you promised.

If you want, you can provide a short explanation, maybe you can give the person some advice or a recommendation, you can maybe connect them with someone you know and who might be interested in collaboration, or even propose something else.

It's not a rejection, it's a redirection

Don’t consider your “no” as a rejection, but as a redirection. Their job is to find people who are really interested in their project. If that’s not you, it’s nothing wrong with that. Always keep in mind that you’re not a bad person if you say no. Just stay polite, and don’t lie or make false excuses. That’s it.

A fast no is always better than a long-extended no or long-extended yes. Meg Whitman

It might also help if you keep an email template or a phone script with how to politely say no to opportunities you’re not interested in. Having a not-to do list can also help you make sure that you don’t get convinced into activities you actually don’t like.

But never forget: your default answer should always be no. Then ask yourself about the investment, potential gains, the level of commitment you can really do and comes from the bottom of your heart, what could go wrong and what could go right, and so on.

There must be a really strong reason to change your no into a yes. And when you say yes, make sure you always fully commit and overdeliver.

How to say no to anyone

A few examples how to politely say no

To end this blog post, here are some phrases for politely saying no:

  • I’m sorry, I am really busy and can’t commit to new things.
  • Thanks for thinking of me, but my plate is full of commitments right now.
  • I’d love to, but I’m already overcommitted.
  • I really appreciate you asking me, but I can’t do it.
  • I’m going to say no for now and let you know if anything changes.
  • Sorry, but that just doesn’t work for me.

Focusing is about saying no. Steve Jobs