Is Your Worst Habit The Inability To Turn Down Any Request?

Jun 05, 2015 1 Min Read


Just say ‘no’

Every year, in DIODE, DropZone and Leaderonomics Club, we encourage our youth to work on their AVP (Awareness, Vision, Plan) by choosing at least one vision that they aim to achieve by the end of the year.

As part of the Leaderonomics Youth team, I am not spared from doing the same thing myself, just to set an example as to how awareness helps in planning and achieving our personal vision.

I have a few visions that I planned to work on this year and one of them is to be able to be firm and say “no”.

I thought that I have been a really “nice” person by saying “yes” to almost everything that I am asked to do or attend and I realised I was not only burning myself out, I had also let some people down by not being able to be there for those who matter.

Why is it so difficult to say ‘no’?

A lot of people especially women have difficulty in saying a firm “no” to something they don’t really want to do.
The inability to give a firm “no” is not only counterproductive, it is also very stressful as you will need to juggle the additional tasks and appointments that you have agreed to.

Many of us find it challenging to say no because we want to be liked as individuals. We do not want to disappoint or close doors to opportunities.

However, believe it or not, by saying no, we are actually opening doors to many other chances which can contribute to our learning curve. We will have more time to focus on what is best for our career growth.

Another reason I think it is difficult for many to say no especially at work is because we believe by doing more things, we will be able to climb the ladder faster. While it may be true for some, it might not be for you if you are not able to produce the best quality of work assigned to you.

Some may also find it difficult to say no because we want to avoid feeling guilty. We may feel that we are being selfish by saying no. However, it is more selfish to feed our guilt and jeopardise the quality of our work.

Here are some ways that you can apply to build up that strength to say “no”.

Decide to say no

To start saying no, you have to begin with a decision to say no and be firm with the choices that you have made. Be firm and unapologetic in your response but avoid appearing aggressive as this may burn the bridges between you and the asker.

Oftentimes, people tend to give reasons as to why they cannot take the extra load of work or participate in a particular event as a way to say no. However, sometimes “no, thank you” is the complete sentence.
By giving excuses, you are allowing people to manoeuvre around you.

You are also allowing yourself to fall into the cycle of lies should you not be honest in your excuses. This will not only tarnish your reputation as an individual, you will also appear as someone who is not able to make decisions and hold his/her ground.

Stop offering

Asians are well known for their generosity and therefore, we tend to offer as much help to others as possible. However, when it comes to work, sometimes it would be best to identify our capacity in doing the job before offering to actually do it.

If the task is something that you believe would be really great in accelerating your growth, improve your skills as well as help you achieve what you want, then take some time to identify your current workload and understand how much effort you will have to invest before volunteering to help.

You are, after all, responsible for your own portfolio.

Take your time

Whenever you are asked to do something, always take some time to decide whether you should take the task or not. Avoid agreeing on the spot to any invites or additional work. Give yourself some time to understand your priorities, availability and capacity.

This way, you will be able to set a viable work pace and avoid spreading yourself too thin. You do not want to fall into a life that has minimal time for rest.

Make use of the calendar app in your phone to block your time for work and personal appointments. From here, you will be able to see clearly your availability to do certain things.

It is a good idea to consider if the tasks that you will be doing is going to help you build new skills and experiences.

It is not going to be easy for many who are not used to saying no. However, saying no is a skill that can be learned. All you need to do is to start saying no right now. Do not delay your decision.

Start caring for yourself more as that is essentially the most important reason to start saying no. The lack of courage to say no will slowly erode a person who lacks confidence, self-belief and trustworthiness. This may not only cripple your relationships, it may potentially cost you your next career advancement.

Ways to stay firm

My difficulty in saying “no” has led me to search for ways to stand my ground when necessary, and to make it a habit. I started by using the AVP map in three easy steps:

A for awareness

We need to identify and be aware of why we tend to go “yes, yes, yes” when asked to do something. Once you are aware of the drivers in your behaviour, you can manage your responses better by modifying your gut reactions.

V for vision

Next, set an achievable target for yourself. Know what you want to see by the end of the year after you started saying no. Does your health improve? Did you get enough sleep? Are your friends and family happy with the time that you get to spend with them?

P for plan

And last but not least, plan your way to achieve this vision by identifying tools or methods that can help you say no.

Majura Perashot is part of the Youth Team who seeks to continuously improve herself by applying AVP (Awareness, Vision, Plan) in her daily life. For those who are interested to find out more about DIODE Camps and AVP, you can e-mail her at or comment in the box provided. For more Starting Young articles, click here.

First appeared on Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 6 June 2015

Share This



This article is published by the editors of with the consent of the guest author. 

You May Also Like

Woman with headphones thinking by her laptop

Let’s Get Your Earworm Tuned

By Michelle Gibbings. Earworms are great when you have that one song you love stuck in your head. Read further to know how to utilise earworms to stimulate your brain.

Jul 11, 2023 3 Min Read

A hole in the middle of a gate (Human potential)

Unlocking Our Human Potential

Waheeda Hasbullah, Youths Special Projects Partner at Leaderonomics, shares the extrinsic and intrinsic factor to unlocking our true potential

Aug 02, 2021 22 Min Podcast


Boss, Do You Really Care?

People leave managers, not companies. A productive workplace is one in which people feel safe - safe enough to experiment, to challenge, to share information, and to support each other. None of this can happen if team members do not feel cared about. Relationships are the glue that holds great workplaces together. Watch this video to find out more

Sep 30, 2021 1 Min Video

Be a Leader's Digest Reader