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Why You Should Say YES Less Often

Kim Brebach - Monday, February 11, 2019

Why you should say YES less often

If you think you should be saying YES more often, think again. We've extracted some priceless and timeless advice out of a post from Jacob Baadsgaard at Disruptive Advertising  that will help you find more time.


Most people find it hard to say NO, yet they'd do a lot better if they did so more often, according to  Jacob BaadsgaardHis post  is  about our reluctance to say NO to people or projects, or to the obligations we have or think we have. It’s a long post so I've grabbed a few key points. Here's a link to the full post. It will make you re-think.

‘Anytime we say NO,’ says Jacob, ‘we risk losing something. Say NO to a client or customer and you might lose their business. Say NO to a co-worker and you risk losing face. Say NO to your spouse ... you get the idea. 

‘No one likes the idea of losing or being embarrassed, so we often say YES when we would really be better off saying NO. Lo and behold, another yesaholic is born. To make matters worse, we praise the yesaholics of the world for their can-do attitude and productivity. After all, they're the ones we can count on to get things done, right?’

Sure signs that you’re an addict

Jacob's list of signs is all too familiar to most of us: working late to catch up, an overflowing inbox, no gaps left in your diary, not enough time for the family, for regular exercise and so on. The result is an inevitable case of paralysis, where even simple tasks become hard to complete.

Then comes this punchline: ‘Saying YES is really saying NO. Whenever you say YES to one thing, you are effectively saying NO to something else.’ In other words, when you say YES to working back at the office, you're saying NO to spending more time with your family. When you say YES to attending more meetings, it's NO to having more discretionary time. When you say YES too often, you end up saying NO to lots of things.

Are you saying YES for the Wrong Reasons?

‘If you say YES and can’t make good on it,’ Jacob warns, ‘you are handing someone short-term happiness in exchange for long-term misery.’ That’s a crucial point. We’re a marketing agency and, when we first started, we were tempted to say YES to prospective clients, even if the project wasn't a great match with our skills or the people a good fit with us. We learned the hard way. Maybe you have too. 

It’s tough to say NO when the company in question is well-known and respected, and you think its logo would look great on your client page. You'd like to build a long term relationship with a company like that, so you think future projects may be a better fit. It rarely works out like that: if the first project or the people in the first meeting aren't a good fit, they probably won't be - ever. 

It's also tough at the other end of the scale: a really promising startup with terrific technology and visions of world domination in six months, yet no plan, no funding and no paying customers yet. You'd love to help, but clearly the expectations here are unrealistic. Again you may think you can instill some reality once you start working with them, but that wasn't our experience in the early days. More often than not, we ended up giving far more than we could ever charge for, and still didn't meet their expectations.

Learning to say NO for the Right Reasons


Over the years, we’ve learned to say NO to avoid the long term misery of ill-matched relationships. We’ve learned that saying NO shows that you know your business, you know who you want as clients and you’re not afraid to be upfront about it. We've also found that the prospects to whom we say YES work out to be a terrific fit, and we build long term relationships that are enjoyable, not just productive, for everyone. 

We’ve also learned that prospects respect you more when you say NO - and give your reasons - than if you say YES, but you're not really sure. We've even gained referrals from ill-matched prospects because they understood exactly what we do, even it it wasn't a good ft for them. 

These days we have a page on our website that spells this out: it's called Is this you? Here we make clear what we're really good at and what features distinguish clients who are a good fit. We also describe the sort of clients who are not a good fit. Apart from being consistent with our principle of helping prospects opt themselves in or out early, it saves everyone time, money and heartache. 

Becoming a Time Lord

Jacob makes the well-known point that you can only make some of the people happy some of the time. The remainder of Jacob’s post goes into setting priorities and learning to say NO the right way. It’s well worth reading in full, because it refocuses the mind on important principles which can be easily missed in the hustle and bustle of your working days. Here's that link to the full post again. 

For me, the take-home message was that thinking about the consequences before saying YES will give you more time for the important things in your life.

Kim Brebach
Content Chief

I've always loved people and words. As long as I can remember, I've been a story-teller and the team here says I'm pretty good at it. That's probably why I head up the Content Team: I create the arc of the story and others add their magic. 

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