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  • Writer's pictureBrent Hoffmann

The POWER of Saying “NO” And Why YOU Still Say “YES”

It’s human nature to want to say “YES”. We are quick to say YES to customers and we are quick to say YES to friends and family. But why? What motivates you to say YES? To make matters worse, we usually say YES without asking any questions or having all the details. It’s like a blind obligation we feel to make people happy.

There are hundreds of books, articles, and endless blog posts encouraging the black arts of getting people to say “yes” to your offer. How do I know? Like 99% of the world, I started my research using Google. The top results from my search included titles like:

- 8 Ways To Motivate People To Say Yes More Often

- Get People To Say “Yes” With One Simple Conversational Trick

- How to Get People to Say Yes to What You Want, According to ...

- Six Ways to Get People to Say "Yes" – Copyblogger

- The psychological trick behind getting people to say yes | PBS ...

All these search results lead you to believe that getting people to say, “YES” must be a trick. You have to employ psychological wizardry otherwise you’ll end up with a “NO”. With all these ways pushing you to say YES, how do you know when YES is the “right” thing to do?

Is receiving a YES to an offer really the best thing? Is receiving a YES driving the needle of your business or is it merely covering up a bigger problem within your business or relationships?

Tell me if this is a familiar scenario: Somebody asks you to do something and you almost immediately agree, even though it’s not something you want to do. Maybe it’s at work — you take on extra responsibilities even though you’re swamped. Or maybe it’s at home — you agree to help a friend next weekend, but you’re already overworked and under-rested.

As soon as you say yes to this new responsibility, something inside locks up. You think of excuses, hoping it’s not too late to back out. But you also don’t want to break your word. Either way, you start to feel resentful, used, annoyed, unappreciated. The relationship you have with this person, whether it is personal or professional, suffers.

You can beat yourself up about it. But you’re still going to make commitments personally and professionally you wish you hadn’t until you start setting some boundaries.

Why do we still say YES when we really want to say NO?

You follow the golden rule — Do unto others. You help people because that’s what you’d want someone to do if you were in need. But I’m willing to bet that, if you see a lot of yourself in these words, you don’t ask for a lot from other people. You’re self-sufficient and responsible, and that’s why people ask for your help in the first place.

You’re a person of your word. Sadly, this implies that you’re not allowed to change your mind after putting more thought into something. You’re willing to put yourself out to avoid the impending feeling of guilt.

You fear that if you say NO, you’ll have an argument that will send out a shockwave, upsetting other people you care about, e.g., your father is upset with you now because you said no to your sister or your customers are upset because you wouldn’t accept a return so they share their negative feelings on social media. Either way, you can’t seem to win. You feel like you are compromising your business if you say no but you feel guilty (nobody likes to let people down) if you say no.

When we’re in a vulnerable position, put on the spot, face to face with someone else, we often fail to be straightforward about our personal boundaries. We might jump into fix-it mode and do everything we can to appease the person and smooth things over. It’s about wanting to be liked and have our social interactions go smoothly.

Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor in social work, has spent two decades studying shame, empathy, and vulnerability. Brown says we often don’t set boundaries, we let people do things that are not okay and then we’re resentful. We tend to imagine that setting a boundary means being rude or pushy. But setting boundaries doesn’t mean you’re being coldhearted.

Setting boundaries that uphold your personal and professional values that allow you to practice self-care is a self-compassionate act. The alternative is resentment and unstable relationships. Having poor boundaries means overextending ourselves and allowing people to say and do things that hurt us and keep us from living our truth. Resentment can make us isolate ourselves from friends as we start feeling like we must hide from their unrealistic expectations.

Next time someone asks you for something, take a step back and pause. Give it thought. If they put you on the spot and need an answer right away, then the answer is, “No, I need more time to think about it before I can make a commitment.” Often, if you don’t commit right away, the person will find another way to work things out without your help.

Being compassionate doesn’t mean being a pushover for other people.


It all starts by asking questions. It’s impossible to always say YES so it’s imperative that you identify ways to find their end goal and then find them something that can help support or get them to that goal. Saying YES without knowing the root of the request may give the customer/friend/family member immediate gratification but in most cases that gratification turns out to not meet or exceed their expectations. Listen, ask questions. "Yes" is not always the right thing to do. It’s up to you to decide what requests deserve your time and attention and which do not.

Until next time...

Brent Hoffmann

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