Mastering The Entrepreneurial Art Of Saying 'No'

The art of saying “no” is beneficial in multiple situations. It applies to life in general, but in many cases it is essential for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are thinkers, doers, motivators and more. This is the anatomy of success for many entrepreneurs. It can, however, be their downfall. Saying no is often the denominator between success and downfall.

This is why saying no is a critical entrepreneurial skill to master. If you say “yes” to everything, you are on a one-way road to entrepreneur burnout. Unfortunately, we have all attached emotions with the word “no” and saying it to people can make us feel selfish and a bit rude.

The good news is that you can learn to ditch the emotional baggage connected with saying no. Here’s how.

Set rules for saying no.

If you plan on mastering the art of saying no, you need to have a core number of rules in place for when “no” is appropriate for a given situation. For example, marketing guru and entrepreneur Seth Godin says no to many things in order to keep his time sacred and valuable. If you have rules for saying no, you will probably stick to them, making the act of declining something easier.

Practice makes perfect.

Once you have rules in place for saying no, you can begin practicing what you preach. The old adage, “Practice makes perfect” certainly applies here. The first time you decline an offer from someone by saying no, it may be hard. But after a week or two of practice, “No” will become a staple in your entrepreneur vernacular.

Say no gracefully and with respect.

Saying no is not simply saying “no” and walking away. Entrepreneurs need to be tactful when declining an offer or invitation, since the chances of running into the same people in your chosen industry are pretty high. This makes it essential to say no gracefully and with respect.

Let’s say someone wants to take you to coffee and pitch you a new entrepreneurial endeavor, but you are simply not interested. Instead of just responding, “No, I can’t,” phrase your response like, “Thank you for the invite, but I’m taking a break from new projects right now.”

Don’t fire responses from the hip.

An aspect of declining an invitation or offer from someone is cadence. In order to say no gracefully and with respect, pause before answering. This goes for face-to-face communications, emails, social media messages and phone calls. Failing to pause and let a natural cadence flow may cause you to respond abruptly, or even worse, backpedal and say “yes.”

Understand how much your time is truly worth.

One of the most common reasons entrepreneurs fail to say no is that they may not fully understand the value of their time. Knowing how much your time is truly worth can help you master the art of saying no faster than those who simply don’t have the time/value equation locked in yet.

A good example of this is in meetings. People love meetings, but they rarely accomplish anything. By saying yes to meetings throughout the week, you are losing time that could be spent focusing on growing your business. This adds far more value than attending hour-long meetings every day. Say no and understand that your time is better spent on other tasks.

Never back down.

You can say no until you are blue in the face, but if you don’t follow through with the decision of not doing something, you are saying yes in an even more complicated way. So don’t back down. Stay true to your no; if done gracefully and with respect, you don’t need to worry about pushback. If someone does push back against your decline, they were probably not worth a “yes” and you made the right call.

Know that it’s OK to be selfish.

Most people feel that saying no gives others a poor impression of them. They also may feel a bit selfish for saying no. But it is time to rewire your brain to change the selfish emotions from a negative to a positive. If you need time for yourself in order to either focus 100% on a project, or not focus on anything at all, you have the right to do so.

As an entrepreneur, this is pretty important because once your business begins to grow, your time will be more valuable than gold. You also don’t want to burnout, either. Warren Buffet explained it like this, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

Are you ready to harness the power of no?

Should you decline every invitation or offer that comes your way? It’s hard to say because part of being a successful entrepreneur means building a strong network and staying open to new trends or ideas that happen to cross your path. However, there should be a balance. If you have a set of rules in place for when to say no, you will find it much easier to say no, and say it in a way people will respect. Anything less than a 100% “yes” should probably be a “no.”