Get Good At Saying “No”

I have a confession to make: I am a people pleaser. I always have been. I was that kid in school who always got gold stars and straight-As. I was that annoying smarty-pants who would jump up and down in my chair with my hand thrust into the air to answer any question the teacher posed. I loved being the “teacher’s pet” (and I was really good at it!), and that chronic-pleaser-syndrome has never totally gone away. 

When I was starting my first business, I never had enough hours in a day for myself, my health, my business, or my loved ones but I was saying yes to endless requests for help or guidance or advice from others, often total strangers, because I didn’t want to disappoint them. What an idiot!

But after years of giving indiscriminately, I started to design boundaries into my business. I thought hard about how I could say no but still help as many people as possible in a way that felt sustainable and generous instead of leaving me feeling vulnerable and exploited.

So I built generous giving into my business model: I do lots of free articles, You Tube videos, and webinars so I can help lots of people at the same time, and I do a set number of pro-bono hours to help a few budding entrepreneurs each year. And then, my one-on-one time is devoted to private paying clients who I can help in a very targeted and tailored way.

Saying no wasn’t easy and it sometimes made me feel like a jerk, but I  finally started to acknowledge that having boundaries wasn’t mean or selfish – it was realistic.

Yes, it took time, and thought, and some uncomfortable conversations for me to get comfortable saying no, but now I am having a far greater impact on a far greater number of people because I am choosing carefully what I say yes and no to. And saying no has allowed me to help more people and be more focused. Win-win.

So what can you say no to? What should you say no to? What boundaries can you establish so you can say no to some things and yes to others? What amount of no-saying is right for you and your business?

Warren Buffet didn’t become hugely successful by investing in every business brought before him. He says no as a rule, and sparingly uses his yes’s. And while I can’t promise that by saying no you’ll become the next Warren Buffet, I can guarantee that when you get better at setting boundaries and saying no, you and your business will become more focused and disciplined, and focus and discipline are two of the most essential ingredients for success at anything.

So the next time you feel yourself tempted to say yes to something, take a minute and ask yourself if you should simply say no instead.

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About Me
Rupal Patel logo
The daughter of Indian immigrants, Rupal is a born-and-bred New Yorker now living near London. Her high-octane career as a CIA officer turned serial entrepreneur has taken her from military briefing rooms in jungles and war zones to corporate boardrooms and international stages.

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