Mastering one of the Toughest Entrepreneurial Competencies: The Art of Saying “No”

Mastering one of the Toughest Entrepreneurial Competencies: The Art of Saying “No”

Mastering one of the Toughest Entrepreneurial Competencies: The Art of Saying “No”

One of the toughest entrepreneurial competencies to master is definitely the art of saying, “No!” That’s quite a simple word, isn’t it? Most of us have in fact heard and mentioned this word quite often during our growing years! But the moment we get into a professional and entrepreneurial environment, we hesitate to shake our heads sideways, saying NO. Interestingly, in many cases, your restraint is because you do know how to say NO the right way or you really do not want to miss out on an opportunity by saying the negative word. But very often, this tiny word wraps itself around your mind, making you agree to any suggestion, opportunity, or request. Soon you find your entrepreneurial enthusiasm losing focus and shifting priorities. Your entrepreneurial initiative soon goes off track and you face serious burnout issues.

Why does such a small word have such terrible consequences when not used at the right instance? More importantly, why do we have such a difficult time saying no? Is there any cure to this “anti-no” disorder? Let’s find out.

Why can’t we say no?

Entrepreneurial initiatives can get extremely busy, with responsibilities, urgent needs, and sudden challenges cropping out of nowhere. In such a scenario, you really do not have the luxury to agree to every request, demand, or proposal. But we often think twice before pushing back in such cases. Why is that?

Habitual conditioning

We have all grown up hearing that saying “no” is a sign of aggression or selfishness. Hence we often respond to barrages of “please could you …” with a simple “Let me see what I can do.” The psychological block against saying “no” or the fear of causing a dent in a work relationship often puts us in a tricky situation.


Opportunity is the essence of the entrepreneurial game, and often this thirst for grabbing a once-in-a-lifetime chance forces us to say “Yes” to even the most distracting of proposals. This fear of missing out on a lucky chance is what causes the trouble in most cases.

Problems with priorities

Being focused on your goal is a core essential of a great entrepreneur. However, if you do not set your priorities correctly right from the beginning, your lack of focus will be your biggest enemy, forcing you to say “yes,” when you mean “no.”

Egocentric compulsions

For some of us, saying “Yes” to requests for help is such an ego booster.  The satisfaction of having helped someone is a positive trait but to be a compulsive helper who goes out of the way to “pitch in” is a sign that you are going to miss out on your goals by saying “OK” to every request.

Most of the reasons for avoiding “No” seem familiar, right? So, what’s the way out?

A few pointers you can practice to master the art of saying “No” when needed

Map the new need against your goals

The moment you receive a request or concept that seems exciting, immediately map it with your entrepreneurial goals. If saying “OK” is going to support your goals or will not jeopardize your focus then go ahead. Else say, “No.”

Think logically rather than emotionally

Of course, the golden rule of entrepreneurship is to always separate your entrepreneurial initiative from your personal lives, else it’s going to be an emotional rollercoaster. Hence make sure that you think practically rather than emotionally before you rush and respond in the affirmative.

Dig deeper before agreeing

Many distracting and potentially hazardous requests and so-called opportunities for your entrepreneurial venture are sugar coated with visions of a bright future or a great deed. Hence, always take time to trim out all the outer decorations and do a background check before you decide. If you even have a hint of any foul play, immediately say, “no.”

Explain your “No”

It always helps to explain why you are saying no, because it clarifies your stand and it might also support the person at the other end make amends. Many entrepreneurs have been at the receiving end of a stern “No” during their initial days. A “No” with a note explaining why will definitely help many such entrepreneurs or aspirants correct their approach, proposal, or idea the next time.

Don’t overdose on the “No”

Yes, saying “No” is tough, but it makes no sense to say the word every time. Sometimes, a request might be genuine and you might be in a position to help. A potential client request might be a great opportunity to grow or a partnership proposal can be a promising start. So be super-careful of the power of saying “No” and avoid using it blindly.

Many of us have learned the tough way that saying “yes” is not always the option. Embrace the “no” with grace and logic is one of the toughest entrepreneurial competencies. Hence, make sure that you have a clear reason for saying no and that the other person understands why you made the choice.

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