It’s so easy to say yes. Yes to yet another feature, yes to an overly optimistic deadline, yes a mediocre design, yes, yes, yes. We all want to be loved.
But the love won’t keep you warm for long when you’ve taken on yet another obligation that you don’t whole-heartedly believe in. You very quickly become trapped in a pit of guilt when the stack of things you’ve said yes to loom so high that you can’t even see the things you really should be doing.
That’s not a good way to live or work. Which is why you have to start getting into the habit of saying no. No to things that just don’t fit, no to things that just aren’t the most important right now, and no to many things that simply don’t cut it.
It’s incredibly rare that I’ve actually regretted saying no, but I dread my yes’s all the time.
Use the power of no to get your priorities straight. Take the brief discomfort of confrontation up front and avoid the long regret down the line.
sloseron 12 Mar 09
Venkaton 12 Mar 09
very tough to say ‘I dont know’ too :)
John Wrighton 12 Mar 09
This couldn’t of come at a worse/better time. I am about to sign with a large company as a permanent employee and sign away the rights to do anything (at least while I work there) with a personal Ruby on Rails project about which I am really passionate. I said yes because I wanted to please and I wanted the good money during the recession but it’s really not a good fit for me. Sometimes saying no takes a ton of courage and perhaps this is one of those times.
Steven Hiltonon 12 Mar 09
Counter argument? Seth Godin: Looking For Yes
Ken Collinson 12 Mar 09
I have so been preaching this to my new co-workers. They are all the time saying, well I’m new to the company and I’m still in YES mode. I have to remind them they were hired because they have brains. As application developers we are the closest to the app and should be able to put logical feedback, meaning NO, when required. Good for ya’ll for saying so!
Corey Grusdenon 12 Mar 09
I use it all the time.. No one that I say “no” to rarely get’s upset or pissed off either. It helps cut down on wasting not only other peoples time, but your as well when it comes to things you do not feel comfortable doing.
Matton 12 Mar 09
Totally have to agree on that one. Far too many times i have seen people be too scared to say “No” and have ended up created a half solution due to time and lack of resources.
Dave Concannonon 12 Mar 09
I find the maxim “It’s better to regret something you’ve done then something you haven’t done” usually works better for life in general, but I agree that “NO” is damn good for producing good software.
Ariejanon 12 Mar 09
“No!” should be your default answer to anything. Next, consider changing to ‘Yes!’. But, it’s difficult.
Mitkoon 12 Mar 09
David, you already said that hundred times.
smyleson 12 Mar 09
Thanks for this post. I’ve found myself lately in a dilemma because I agreed to a deadline I never stood a chance meeting.
Des Traynoron 12 Mar 09
David – your talk at FoWA Dublin was excellent, thanks a million for coming over.
One question I didn’t get to task was related to this idea of saying No, and your comment about regrets.
Could you share a time when you said yes on a project/application that you now regret, or did that all happen back in the consulting days?
Eric Santoson 12 Mar 09
Couldn’t agree more today. In our company, we’ve just learned the hard way the importance of saying ‘no’.
We recently finished a project where we said ‘yes’ to a lot of ongoing feature requests from one single (but important) customer, and ended up delivering mediocre software within the time we had. Also, the team morale was hurt pretty bad.
Great words on the last paragraph David!
Amion 12 Mar 09
Great post. So very true, inspiring and encouraging. I believe in every word written above, I learned it the hard way. I also find many time that those who say no are much more respected in my organization also because they usually have a strong personality .
dc1on 12 Mar 09
You don’t want to know, you don’t care, you don’t want to help, you don’t want to work too much. Say NO. If you don’t want to learn – say NO.
Chrison 12 Mar 09
Just another way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_Man_(film)
Bob Monsouron 12 Mar 09
I wholeheartedly say “YES” to saying “NO”
Jasonon 12 Mar 09
A good reminder. Thanks.
Robon 12 Mar 09
If you look after a product within an organization, saying “no” can be particularly difficult when a request for an extra feature comes from someone more senior within the company.
Responding “yes” can be easier politically/personally/professionally but saying “no” can often be better overall for the product and for the business.
Anonymous Cowardon 12 Mar 09
Jeff Putzon 12 Mar 09
@John Wright: Run. Run fast. You can’t possibly get better at what you do by locking yourself into work only for The Man.
Happyon 12 Mar 09
The whole world seems to be saying “no” now because of economic uncertainty. No to taking a vacation. No to buying books. No to planning for growth. I’m so tired of all the “no’s” that I’ve stopped reading the news. Now, I hope I don’t have to stop reading svn. So many people are hunkered down in “no” mode.
Yet it’s times like these that call for more “yes” and less “no”. When so much of the rest of the world is saying “no”, one’s “yes” has that much more power.
Jack Bauron 12 Mar 09
Walter Sobchakon 12 Mar 09
@ Jeff Putz- Truer words have never been spoken. After I took a sabbatical from the small business in Northern Virginia, and ultimately laid off by a large company in Seattle, I’d never settle again for a large company. I’ve been with 3 startup companies (JetBlue in their infancy, Independence Air until their demise and the company I work for now). I’d rather take a smaller check, fewer benefits, and a possibility of having no job in a month than deal with the day-to-day corporate bullshit (like having stupid parties for your co-workers or talking to your uninteresting co-workers because you have to save face.)
For the record, I respect and admire folks who work day in and day out for big companies. I’m also a big fan of the free market, but loathe the thought of sitting in a cube with set parameters. Then again, that’s just my opinion, man! :)
dommmelon 12 Mar 09
Sounds like rigmarole to me. No offense – I do it all the time
Guy From South Americaon 12 Mar 09
NO, I don’t like your post. It’s the same thing over and over. Are you running out of interesting topics?
Kunal Jhamon 12 Mar 09
Simple but powerful words. I made my response into a blog post so that I can reach out to more people about my thoughts.
Here they are: http://kunaljham.blogspot.com/2009/03/no-hard-to-use-but-much-needed-word-in.html
Paul Lamberton 12 Mar 09
David, you should start an advice column. This is the second time in 3 days (the ‘there’s always time’ post) that you said something that I knew but need to be told by someone else. Thank you.
That said, you almost said the same thing twice: your Tuesday post and this one are two sides of the same coin: Say too many “yes”’s to other people, and pretty soon you “just don’t have enough time (to pursue your dreams)”!
Adam Richardsonon 12 Mar 09
Now I know why some apps are so limited. Always “NO” for customers. That’s the solution, but not for all. “NO” means one way communication. I hate limits.
Josh Liptonon 12 Mar 09
Must read: “No – The only Negotiating System You Need for Work and Hom” by Jim Camp. This has transformed our entire consulting services team.
Lincolnon 12 Mar 09
If you can’t say no, then your yes is worth nothing.
johnon 12 Mar 09
the most powerful word is s#x
Stuarton 13 Mar 09
I think David’s point really isn’t about the power of “no”, its about the power of choice.
Choose – choose to do good work over bad, choose to do important things first, choose to do only things that fit.
Daneon 13 Mar 09
@Lincoln: I see myself quoting that very soon :^)
Rohit Sachdevaon 13 Mar 09
Eventually the Power is In Doing the Right thing..NO or YES Accept the right step first inside yourself and there you are —speak it up! Long term NO!=WRONG and YES!=RIGHT always:)
Andrew Conardon 13 Mar 09
Rohit – Thanks for the post. As a leader in a local community of faith, I continue to struggle to say no. The perspective that you bring in this post is quite helpful for me. Thanks.
Anonymous Cowardon 13 Mar 09
Matton 13 Mar 09
Harvey Mackay wrote, “say no until your tongue bleeds.”
Happyon 13 Mar 09
Harvey Mackay also wrote, “The sale begins when the customer says yes.” Hopefully none of my potential customers are 37signals or Mackay readers!!
John Maxwell probably summed it up the best: “Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.”
Nate Smithon 13 Mar 09
I think the hardest part about saying no is that most of the time I’m asked to take on something, I immediately look at it as an opportunity (rather than the burden it might turn out to be). I’ve also found that as a student I’m have a tough time gauging just exactly how much time I have for the ‘yesses’. I’ve got to learn to take your advice.
Antje en Oepkeon 14 Mar 09
Hoe is het daar in dat grote land lukt het een beetje ?
groet uit Ane Antje en Oepke
Greg Cootsonaon 14 Mar 09
It’s amazing how freeing that small word “no” can be, which is counter-intuitive. No provides boundaries and allows our yeses to flourish. But since I just published a book, Say Yes to No, on this very topic, it’s no surprise that I agree! Thanks for the insights.
Lare Lekmanon 14 Mar 09
Refusing from too many or conflicting commitments is only professional. To refuse, keep the positive attitude and say “YES that can be done but NOT within this time or design.” If your further advise is not appreciated, find another company. Just don’t give a plain yes or no without honest communication.
Jesus A. Domingoon 15 Mar 09
I really, really, really, really need to learn and follow this myself.
This discussion is closed.