Educators - Saying 'No' Instead of 'Yes'

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\ Most educators are agreeable folks and say 'yes'...even when they need to say 'no.' The idea is to protect your 'yesses' for those tasks, responsibilities, and commitments that will make the most difference. That means that have to say 'no.' This article gives you some ideas for how and when to do so.


  1. Sometimes, you just need to say, "No" and not add any additional explanation.
  2. Sometimes, "No, but thanks for asking me" is the best answer.
  3. Sometimes, "No, there's no way I can fit anything else into my schedule right now" is the correct way to respond (and it's the right one to use when it's the truth!)
  4. One of my personal favorites is, "No, I simply can't say yes." People sort of shake their heads when they hear this one. This gives you time to move on.
  5. There are times that the best answer is, "No, given my other responsibilities right now, I can't take on anything else. However, I do appreciate your asking me."
  6. When someone is asking you to do something, and you are going to have to say yes, but it means that something else is not going to get done, you can respond, "OK. I can do that and please help me figure out which of these other tasks is of a lower priority."
  7. When you are able to say "Yes" to part of the task, then do so. You might respond, "I can't say yes to all of what you're asking me, but I can say yes to ________" (specify what will work for you).
  8. Let people know what saying "Yes" will interfere with...and it has to be something that they will understand. For example, "I have to say no because if I agree to chair this committee, which meets on Tuesday nights, I will miss all of my son's soccer games." Another example is, "The reason I can't say yes is because right now, I'm chairing the accreditation committee and next year is our visit so that is my primary focus and has to take precedence. I'm sure you understand."
  9. There are times that the answer is "no" right this minute, but it might be yes at another time. Tell people that (when it's the truth).
  10. Taking care of yourself is not a bad reason to say "no" to particular requests for you time, energy, talent, and money. There's no need to apologize. You can say, "Right now, I am focusing on my health (finances, learning, or whatever is true), so I will have to say no."


Al McGuire said: "Despite what your friends might think, 'no' is a good answer. Everyone thinks 'no' is a bad answer. 'Maybe' is the bad answer. 'Yes' is the best answer, the one we all want. But 'no' at least ends the conversation." Don't equivocate if 'no' is the answer you need to give.

For additional signs to post in your office or classroom, feel free to contact me through so you can get some visual reminders of the ideas discussed in this article. I want to help you "protect your yesses."

My belief is that educators have the most influential positions in our society--and need every bit of support that can be mustered. A resource that will help increase educators' sense of peaceful, predictable productivity are Meggin's weekly emails:

**Top Ten Productivity Tips (

(c) 2008 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., "The Ph.D. of Productivity"(tm)

Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do via seminars, workshops, writing, coaching, and consulting. If you think this sounds like fun, it is!


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Educators - Saying 'No' Instead of 'Yes'

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This article was published on 2011/03/21