How to say “no”

How to avoid temptation and distraction.

You have to stay focused. But how? There are so many things you could be doing. So many things you should be doing. And so many people asking you for help. How can you say “no” to avoid temptation and stay on task to be more successful?

I’m glad you asked.  BufferApp Blog posted an essay on “A Scientific Guide to Saying No.” (See:   For those of you too lazy to click there, here is what the research shows.

It turns out that the language you use to say “no” has a huge impact on how you actually act.  The difference is whether you use empowering language vs. dis-empowering language.  There is also a moral component to this.

If you say – I can’t do x – you are disempowering yourself. It doesn’t feel good and you feel like you are cheating yourself out of something. Like ice cream.

If, on the other hand you say – I don’t do x – you have empowered yourself and added a moral dimension to your refusal.

It turns out that “I can’t” is experienced as a restriction of choice, which most people naturally rebel against and “I don’t” is experienced as a choice, and who doesn’t like choices.  For the record “just say no” works better than “I can’t,” but not by much – again – there is research behind this.

Your experiment for this week is to test out this change in language for yourself and see what happens. Report back and let me know!

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