What Happens if You Say ‘No’?

What happens if you say “no?” Do you remember the old Staples television commercial with the “EASY” button? People would look for something at Staples, find it quickly and hit the button that would exclaim, “That was easy!”


The fun part was that you could actually buy your very own “easy” button at Staples.


Better yet, there’s another version of the “easy” button: It’s a big red button that says in all-caps: “NO!”


I gave one to a client once as a fun tool to use in reconditioning her negative self-talk: she left it on her desk, and whenever that inner critic started to nag at her, she’d reach over and – WHAM – “NO!”


It also made her laugh every time (there were many silly voices it would use), which added to the catharsis and simple joy of being able to say no, at least to herself.


Being able to say no to someone else, whether at work or at home, is like having a special skill.


The pressure and conditioning from an early age to conform, avoid confrontation, get external approval, and prioritize other people’s happiness can be overwhelming.


Saying no can feel like a mortal sin… and sometimes we’re afraid we’ll be punished as if we had committed one, if we don’t say yes to everything.


And of course, nowadays a common expression is “FOMO” – i.e. “fear of missing out.” Even when nobody else is making demands on us, there are certain things we don’t want to say no to, even when we should.


But it's also a well-known fact that nobody likes to say no, which is half the reason people keep asking you to do things for them. It's not that you're not allowed to say no; they just know that you won't.


But when we do finally set our boundaries and stick to them with a respectful but firm “no,” WOW does it feel good!


Steve Jobs said that leadership is about saying “no” to 90% of the things you want to say “yes” to.


This week's episode on the podcast


On this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence, Erik Ryan, Senior Vice President and CFO of Iron Mountain, shares the power of ‘no’.


Erik takes us through his initial struggles of saying no, and how it was both empowering and liberating when he finally found the courage and the words to do it.



As we delved into our conversation, we also addressed:


  • How a spontaneous “confession” to a coworker led to a moment of solidarity and empowerment for both of them
  • How he ended up in an unexpectedly awkward debate with none other than Prince Edward of the UK, and how he managed to steer the conversation back on track.
  • The importance of meeting others where they are, avoiding tangential conversations, and steering them back on track
  • How to inspire your team by reminding them of their past successes and experiences as evidence of their ability to overcome challenges
  • And more.


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.


Other Podcast Shows


In the spirit of meeting others where they are, there’s another discussion you won’t want to miss: the “Leaders and Legacies” podcast with Craig Andrews.


Craig’s show is terrific, focusing on what it takes to leave a positive and lasting mark on the world long after you’re gone.


I had the privilege of speaking with him about how to take an audience-centric approach in public speaking and marketing.



Check it out on Apple podcasts here or on Spotify.

So the next time someone asks you to do something, give it a try – say “no.” See how it feels. (As a bonus, it will free up time to listen to these podcasts!) I promise that will make you feel great.


Recommended reads:

How to Create More Impact in People’s Lives

Is It Important to Be Liked?

When I Had to Eat My Words