Reprise: “No.” Is a Complete Sentence

Yesterday I spoke to the Wilmington, Delaware, chapter of the networking group Polka Dot Powerhouse. (Yes, I know, hard name for a non-girly-girl like me to handle, but a great organization.) I talked on “Finding Your PACE: The Secret to Long-Term Success.” During the Q&A at the end, I mentioned this concept. I decided to repost this blog from 2o13. It’s a reminder we can all use.

In a couple of conversations with people in the past week they’ve mentioned the need to not overcommit themselves, especially as they start new jobs or ministries. I reminded them of something we tend to forget:

“No” is a complete sentence.


So often when we say no to an opportunity or a responsibility we say something like, “No, I’m sorry I can’t do that because . . .” and we give our explanation. First of all, you don’t need to explain your decision. They made a request, and you are choosing to say no. Own it, without feeling you must tell them why. In most cases they won’t understand anyway; to them (or to us when we’re the ones making the request) it will most likely sound like a lame excuse. They’re simply looking for someone to say “Yes.” If you say “No,” their only thought is, “Can I convince her to change her mind?” and they will look for a way to negate your excuse:

  • “You don’t have much time? Well, I promise it won’t take much.”
  • “You’re not qualified? Well, I can train you.”
  • “You have too many responsibilities? Are you sure this one isn’t more important than that one?”

When you don’t provide an excuse, there is nothing for them to counter with except “Why?” And you can always answer that with, “It’s my choice not to do so,” or “It’s not in my best interest.” Because I want to be about living the purpose I believe God designed me for, I’m trying to answer “why” with “It doesn’t fit the purpose God designed me to live out.” That word choice doesn’t leave much argument-room open.

The other thing I’m learning to drop from the sentence is the “I’m sorry.” For one thing, it’s often a lie. I’m NOT sorry I won’t be doing that job. I might feel sorry for them that they have to keep looking, but when I apologize, it insinuates that I’m in error, that my decision is wrong. If I’m truly aware of my purpose and attempting to live it out, this is a right decision, and I shouldn’t apologize for it.

So often we say “Yes” to something because we want people to like us. We don’t want them upset with us. But several years ago, I heard this statement, which changed my life:

“Every ‘Yes’ you say is a ‘No’ to something else.”

Think about it. It’s true for all of life. When I said “Yes” to wearing this outfit, I said “No” to everything else in my closet. When I spend this time writing a blog post, I have said “No” to all other activities I could be doing in this timeframe.

Choose wisely what you say “Yes” to. Be sure it aligns with your purpose. And graciously say “No” to everything else—with no added frills.

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