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How to Say NO in a YES Society

This post is written by Certified Professional Organizer® and Certified Organizer Coach®, Tiffany Engler.

We often associate the word clutter with stuff, but I’d bet most of us would agree that we clutter up our days (our time) pretty good too. One reason, maybe for all this type of clutter is because we are afraid of the word no.

I used to be afraid of saying no. I felt that saying no meant that I was being mean or uncaring. After all, I love to be helpful, useful, needed, and resourceful. In fact, those are probably the key qualities that make me a good organizer. And since I have those gifts, those qualities, I felt like I needed to give, give, give and say yes, yes yes.

I don’t know what the turning point was, but I started by practicing saying no in different ways. Here are some examples:

  • No thank you.
  • I appreciate the consideration, but will have to pass.
  • I am unable to assist you.
  • Thank you for the opportunity, but I cannot accept this responsibility.

If you are a yes person like me – then this may be hard at first and you will try to sugarcoat your no response, with something like:

  • I appreciate the consideration, but will have to pass right now.
  • I am unable to assist you, I have a full month.
  • Thank you for the opportunity, but I cannot accept this responsibility at this time.

What’s wrong with these three ways of saying no is that the other person might followup with a statement that may require you to have to say no again.

  • I don’t need it done right now, how about next week?
  • Can you help next month?
  • Okay. Is there a better time that you might be able to help?

What happens is that it is so hard to say no the first time, that you are not confident in your response and then you either have to say no in a different way or you give in and say yes.

Of course, if it really is something you want to do, but now is not the right time then express that. But if you don’t want to do it, don’t set yourself up that you might do it in the immediate future. Only you can know what to say yes to, but there are some things you can do to make that decision process easier.

  • Know your values.
  • Know what’s important to you.
  • Set some goals for the year.

Since I am a “recovering yes person” I look at my values and my personal and professional goals every single day. If I don’t I know, I will get sidetracked. Having these in place will help you when faced with a decision about whether or not you should say yes to something.

One of my clients once asked, what if everything I am doing or want to do or want to say yes to doing is in line with my values and goals. I say great question! My response is that you will have to get picky and choose what the focus is this month, this quarter or this year. You can do it all, just not today. We have to spread it out. Just because we love what we are doing if there is not time for peace and quiet and rest, we will get burnt out.

In closing, please remember that saying no will feel uncomfortable at first but it is a great first step to de cluttering your time (or at least not adding more clutter). Still to this day when I say no it hurts a little and when I hear someone tell me no it hurts a little, but I get past it and end up having more respect for myself and that other person because we are setting boundaries. And by setting boundaries we end up taking better care of
ourselves, which will allow us to serve others better.

I’d love to hear your “NO” experiences.

Tiffany Engler, CPO®, COC® loves to help her clients break overwhelming organizing projects into small pieces to achieve big results. She gets a rush helping people finish something they have been putting off for years. Check out her website at:

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One Response to How to Say NO in a YES Society

  1. R September 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    I’m definitely going to be using some of these techniques. Lately I’ve been becoming a yes-kind-of-a-person when inside I’m screaming NO!

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