Afraid to say No? – Make a Noble Objection instead

Say No differently

Its OK to say NoOften in life we say ‘yes’ too much because of a sense of obligation or because we want to please people, but in doing so we lose control of our time. Even when we do say no, a lot of the time we preface it with “I’m sorry, but…” The impact of the but, is to tell the listener that the important bit is what comes next, so the only effect that ‘I’m sorry has’ is to make you feel bad about saying no.

Before we can learn to say no in the right way we need to understand why people find it so difficult to do so.

These are some of the common reasons people give for not saying no:

We don’t want to let others down – Saying no to others makes us feel like we are letting the other person down and as a consequence we feel guilty.

We make an emotional connection – At some point in our lives someone has said no to us and so we know how bad it feels, we can therefore relate to the experience and do not wish to put another person through it.

We don’t know how to say ‘no’ – When we think about saying no to someone we struggle with how to say it. What is the best way to say it without feeling completely selfish?

We say ‘Yes’ to avoid conflict – If we know that the other person might get upset or argue with us we would rather avoid the situation and keep them happy, so we say yes and agree to help them, often against our better judgement.

So Don’t Say No, Make a Noble Objection

So if it’s so difficult to say that dreaded word, then let’s look at a different view. If we are to keep control our time, we need to act in a way that is noble, that is to do what is right. If no sounds negative to you, what could be more positive than nobility? In 2012, Dr Mike Clayton in his book entitled The Yes/No Book introduced the concept of the Noble Objection. Rather than say no, which sounds negative, he suggested that you make a Noble Objection.

To make a Noble Objection is to say no for the right reasons. When you make a Noble Objection, you are declining to say yes, because to do so would be to make a promise to another person, and conscientious people will always honour their promises.

Recognise what is important and to whom and then make a choice:

  • Will you say yes because it is the right thing to do?
  • Will you make a Noble Objection because saying no is the right thing to do?

Use Power to Make a Noble Objection

When you say no in the form of a Noble Objection, three things will help the other person to be comfortable with your decision.

The Power of Empathy

Firstly you must show them that you understand their situation and why they have asked you. If you don’t do this, then they will not accept your Noble Objection as noble: how can it be noble if you don’t understand their situation?

“Thanks for asking me to do this, I do understand why it is important to you, however I can’t help you with it now”.

The Power of Options

If you are able, then suggesting some alternatives will be a great help to the other person.

“I can’t help you with this, why don’t you look at/speak to/start with…”

The Power of ‘because’

Sometimes it is important for us to understand why someone has made the choice they have made. Explaining your decision is not to justify why you have made it, nor to make you feel better; it is to help the other person to understand why it was a noble objection. ‘Because’ demonstrates the strategic reasoning you have chosen.

“I cannot help you with this. I need to prioritise that, which is more important because…”

In Conclusion

Every time someone asks you to do something additional, ask yourself if it is more important than the thing you will have to give up in order to do it. And that thing may be your free time, health and happiness.

I’m not suggesting that you make a Noble Objection to every request made of your time, however I am suggesting that you keep control of your time by asking yourself if saying yes or making a noble objection is the right thing to do, rather than just saying yes because it’s the easiest thing to do.

Value your time and energy. You’ll have more to give if you take care of yourself first and the best way of doing that is to consider if making a Noble Objection will be better for you and the other person, than saying yes.

How do you say no to people?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Till Next Time

Mike Gardner
The Time Doctor

Mike Gardner aka ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management and productivity specialists. As well as being regularly featured in both online and off-line media outlets around the world, he is the author of the best selling time management book, Business Owners: Your Family Misses You. He regularly speaks on topics that are congruent with his mission of helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be incredibly productive, whilst still balancing their business and family commitments in a way that enables them to feel fulfilled and guilt-free. He is an avid Aston Villa fan, a Dad to Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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10 thoughts on “Afraid to say No? – Make a Noble Objection instead

  1. Hi Mike,

    I found myself grinning as I read your article.

    I am more of the ‘Yes’ person than the ‘No’ person.

    So thank you for giving me the idea of being Noble and how to go about doing it.

    On the rare occasion when I decide that ‘No’ is going to be my response, I use a tool called Let Me Google That For You (

    You need to be careful when using that tool because it might come across as more rude than intended. I have to remember that not everyone knows how to use Google 😉

    Thanks again Mike.

    • Thanks for your comment Mike, glad you liked the article, totally agree that NO is the ultimate time management tool, and if a Noble Objection fails we have to take a bravery pill and just tell them that you’re too busy at the moment and leave it at that. For such a small word NO has many negative connotations