• Lacy Starling

#91: How do You Say No?

*A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to three classes of sales students at the University of Cincinnati, and they had some really great questions. REALLY great questions...and a lot of them. So I thought it would be good to share them, and my answers, with you, gentle reader.*


How do you say no in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed?

Another great one. As your star rises, and people start to know who you are and what you can do, they are going to want to work with you. Requests will start to come in from all corners, and if you say yes to everything (which many of us do) you'll quickly become overwhelmed and either drop the stuff that's important to you, like working out and staying healthy, or you'll start half-assing everything, which makes you feel awful. I did that a lot when I was younger, because I thought every opportunity would be my last and I needed to say yes to everything or I'd be missing out. (Not true, by the way.)


  1. Know your priorities. I know exactly what is important to me at this stage in my life, and if someone asks me to be a part of something that doesn't fit into those priorities, it is really easy for me to say no and tell them why. Script: "Your cause/job/parent organization seems really great, and I'm sure you'll do great work, but I just went through a priority-setting exercise to keep my schedule under control, and I just can't fit this in."

  2. Know what you are good at. I'm a terrible advisory board member. I'm used to being the boss and I'm used to making decisions quickly, so being on a non-profit advisory board is really torture for me. I know this about myself, and I'm not afraid to admit it to people, so it allows me to say no when I'm asked to join one. Script: "I'm flattered and humbled that you'd ask me to be on your board, but I've found in the past that I'm just really not a great fit for a board role. I'm happy to give any advice or do a little pro-bono consulting, if you are interested, but I'm going to have to pass on the board seat."

  3. Remember that No is a complete sentence. I never apologize when I'm turning down opportunities, because I'm not doing anything to apologize for. It's important to remember this, and to remember that even though I've given you some scripts for how to decline these offers, you don't have to use them at all. Don't apologize, and don't feel guilty—you need to focus on what's important to you, and you need to own your skillset and put it to its highest and best use. Period.

Using these tactics has made it much easier for me to turn down opportunities and keep my schedule and priorities focused.

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© 2021 Lacy Starling