Do you have difficulty saying no?  

It is something I’ve struggled with. 

I think many entrepreneurs struggle with it.  Especially early in our businesses. 

Yet saying no to the good so that you can say yes to the great is so important.


My first instinct is to say yes.

If I’m asked to do something, attend something, or provide something, my first instinct is to say yes. 

To combat this instinct, I’ve had to learn to pause and consider before I commit or not.  

I’ve learned to say no. 

I put the request through some filters to determine if I should say yes or no to something.

My first pass.

When I get a request, my first filter/pass is to ask myself the following questions:

  1. Does it help me reach my goals?
    • if yes, move to the second pass
    • if no, then move to step 2
  2. Is it an “Oh Yeah!”
    • if yes, move to the second pass
    • If no, then step 3
  3. Then it is a NO!

If I’m being honest, sometimes something that falls into the no category still pokes at me.  When it does, I have to ask why it’s bugging me.  Why won’t it simply be a no?  The following questions help me identify why the request doesn’t go away, and I can then get to the no. 

  • Do I want to do this because I fear the person’s disapproval? 
    • If yes, say no
  • Do I have a need for this person’s approval? 
    • If yes, say no
  • Do I genuinely want to do this from the bottom of my heart? 
    • If yes, move to the second pass 

Do you see the power of those three questions?  How often do we say yes because we fear disapproval or want approval? 

The irony is that when we start saying no because we follow the above guidelines, we will find that people respect your yes when you give it.  

My second pass?

If the request passes to the second filter, I review and put the request through my calendar. 

This filter checks for capacity and availability.  

Do I have the capacity to say yes?  I consider my existing commitments, projects, and goals.  My ideal week helps a lot with this filter.

Do I have the availability to say yes?  Do I already have a commitment? 

The key with this filter is that if I don’t have the capacity or the availability, I can reconsider if I’m willing to prioritize it above something else. 

This means something will become a no, and this new request will become a yes.  Because my word is significant to me, I do not make this change often and only in exceptional circumstances. 

I know that saying no can be challenging. 

But my yes’s have so much more meaning now.

What filter resonates with you the most? 

Your yes means nothing if you can’t say no.

Meshell Ndegeocello

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