What do you think is most powerful two-letter word in the English language? I vote “No.” Yes, I think no is the most powerful word. This word will save you future headaches and heartaches. It will protect your family. It will improve your marriage. It will enhance your leadership. It will focus your time. As difficult as it is to spit out, it’s a word that will increase the quality of your life.

NoDon’t misunderstand me. I love to empower people. I love to help people as much as I can. I love to say yes, whenever I can. My wife teaches parents to find ways to eliminate no out of their vocabulary and use yes as much as possible when speaking with children. I think she’s right. I hate hearing repeated “no’s” coming out of a parent’s mouth. So, I love the word yes! I really do.

But, please gain the courage to say no. You need that ability. If you know it is not going to work, say no. If you know you can’t support it, say no. If you know the answer is no and you eventually will have to say it anyway, say it now. If you know you don’t have time, use this powerful little word. If you know it’s a distraction from the vision and mission, just say so. If you know deep inside your leader gut that the best answer is no, be bold.

Don’t lead people on. Don’t try to appease. Don’t try to postpone. Don’t try to soften the blow. Just use the magic word, no.

no2Most of us find it hard to say no for one or more of these common reasons:

  • You want to help.
  • You are afraid of being rude.
  • You want to be agreeable.
  • You fear conflict.
  • You fear lost opportunities.
  • You don’t want to burn any bridges.

But I’m convinced that these reasons are more misconceptions than anything. Saying no doesn’t mean I need to say it rudely or without compassion. Saying no doesn’t mean there will be conflict or burning of relational bridges. At the end of the day, it’s about HOW you say no that affects the outcome, rather than the fact you are using this powerful word. Saying no is about respecting and valuing your limited amount of time, your calling, your God-given purpose, your mission and your space.

Here are some phrases that might help you say no:

“I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”

“I’d love to do this, but…”

“Now’s not a good time but how about we reconnect at X time?”

“I’m not the best person to help on this. Why don’t you try X?”


QUESTION: What would you add to this list? Please share it below.


One response to Memorize This Word

  1. Janet on May 28, 2013 at 9:44 AM Reply

    I think as we get older, close to 70 now, we are able to say no just because we don’t want to do something.. No excuse needed. Our time is limited and we want to spend more time on the things we should have been doing before.There is freedom in learning it’s OK to say no …It needs to be a happy balance of helping others and having time you need at home.Linda and I where just talking about this subject last week.
    Thanks for all you do, the information you give us is right on. I usually don’t answer, because I need time to think over what has been said, but I always get something out of them,and cant wait for the next one.

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