Warning Signs


People will take over your life if you let them. How do they do it?

Step 1: They begin by taking over your time.

“This will only take a minute…”

“Can we have a quick call to discuss…”

“We’d like to get your input on…”

When they send a message in one place to say they’ve left a message for you in another place, you know you’re really in trouble. Watch out!

Step 2: They continue by asserting their priorities over yours.

“We need this done right away.”

“This is really urgent.”

One hour after asking for something: “Have you had a chance to look at that yet?”

(Note: Do not mistake urgent for important. Also refer to: Your lack of planning is not my emergency.)

Step 3: They assume they know better than you do.

“Let me give you some free advice.”

“I know just what you should do.”

“This will be a win-win for both of us.”

(Note: Most of the time when someone says something will help you, what they mean is “This will help me, but let’s pretend it helps you too.”)

Step 4: When you decline to give in to the demands, they’ll attempt to make you feel bad.

“I’m not sure why you’d say no to this great opportunity.”

“I really need your help to ensure this project succeeds.”

“Can we talk about why you don’t feel this is a good fit?”


Sometimes, we let people take over our lives by entrusting judgment to them. We assume that other people know better than we do. We assume that other people’s priorities are more important than ours.

The answer is to stop believing these things and to start building a tower.

You begin by deciding for yourself what success looks like. Set your own rules. Be clear on what you want and how you’re going to get it.

You continue by defining the terms of engagement. If 9 out of 10 voicemails are a waste of time, why bother listening at all? If you know the meeting will be unproductive, why attend? If you don’t want to be distracted by social media, don’t log in.

Here are five powerful words you can use to regain control: “Sorry, I’m not available right now.”

Has this happened to you? Tell us here.


Also see: Things They Have No Right To Tell You
Also see: Who You Are and What They Say

Subscribe now and you’ll get the best posts of all time.


  • Amy says:

    You’re right, other people can take over your life if you enable them to do so, and we must take full responsibility for agreeing to let them. I am getting better and better at saying no to other people, and instead taking the time for myself or my blog. It’s so important to be selfish sometimes so that you can give your best self to the activities you choose to be involved in, and the people you choose to spend your time with. It all comes down to choice: Do you choose to be a wreck, spread thin across many tasks and people that do not enrich your life? OR do you choose to take control of your life and allow only the people and events into it that will lead you to live a fuller, happier life?

  • Keith Erick Fix says:

    While one’s at it, check one’s own behavior. Are you part of the problem?

  • Edward Terry says:

    So true. Had a client try to control me on a few occasions. After waking me up at 8am one day (without even an apology and assuming I would just work on the issue there and then) and then leaving messages all over the place throughout the day to chase me because this issue was important to said client but technically unrelated to the contract we had aside from a coincidental working relationship with a third-party supplier in the distant past, I just drew a line in the sand and laid down (reset) the rules of engagement including billing policies for unrelated work (which said client assumed would be provided free simply because said client was working with me). Haven’t heard from said client since and now have more time to focus on delivering real value to real clients who appreciate the work I do.

  • Ashley says:

    Wow, this came at exactly the right time. I find myself struggling with the thoughts, comments, and actions of others, despite the fact that I know better. Lately it seems that there is this huge expectation to respond to everyone, and I definitely try, but with the number of people and small amount of time, this just isn’t possible. This seems to irritate a lot of people for some reason. Even when I was pregnant and after I had just given birth, some people were annoyed that I had not “stopped by” their blog or whatever in a while. It makes me feel terrible to think people think I don’t care about them, which just isn’t true, but if I tried to talk to everyone, I wouldn’t have anytime for my family or myself! Let alone trying to create anything.

    This is one reason I find it interesting that all new bloggers are recommended to engage with everyone in their community (which is good, of course, and fun as well), but then what do you do when your community becomes so large that you just can’t respond to everyone? I’d like to see someone talk about that. How do you do it without offending everyone. Or is it possible?

    Anyway, thanks for the reminder. Can’t worry about everyone.

  • David says:

    Thank you Chris for the sanity check. I’m off to build a tower. “Sorry, I’m not available right now.”

  • Sirdalmi says:

    I especially love the “Your lack of planning is not my emergency.”

  • John Mw/D says:

    I’ve stopped reading emails as soon as they come in, unless I’m expecting it or it says OH MY GOD I’M DYING in the subject line.

    I have slowly been able to train people to know that I do this. It was nice to hear a bit of surprise in my voice when I answer “No, I actually haven’t read your email yet.”

    People will call you selfish, but these are the same selfish people that would take every minute of your day from you if they could.

  • Chadrick Black says:

    Chris, it was my belief you had never met my family. However, after reading this, it appears you know them rather well. 🙂

    My wife and I were just discussing something along these lines. For example, it’s not we dislike the wonderful food during the holidays that our families make, it’s just that the “I know what you should do” crap they sprinkle all over it ruins it. And it seems to take weeks and months to get that awful taste out of your mouth!

    So last year, my wife and I discovered that a cheap fast-food taco, while at home during the holidays discussing “our” dreams and happiness, actually tastes better than a home-cooked meal served with an all-you-can-stand side of unwanted advice.

  • Cedric says:

    This is so true! I’m writing this as I dash out the door for an appointment that, thankfully, I believe is important to me, but I have been in so many situations where others try to make you subservient to their agenda. If you want to blaze your own trail you have to be your own muse. An outstanding post, Chris. Relevant to so many of us!

  • Becky Blanton says:

    Well, begin by changing that “Sorry, I’m not available right now to simply, “I’m not available right now.” Why are you sorry? Are you sorry? Now, consider this. There are three stages to this becoming a problem:

    Stage 1: No body knows I exist. This is where you don’t have any, or barely any, people making demands on you or your time. You WELCOME the requests and THIS is where you start training friends and clients that you ARE available.

    Stage 2: People are beginning to notice you, like you, engage with you. Wow! It’s so HEADY and exciting! They LIKE me! They really LIKE ME! You respond enthusiastically and confindently, further training people that you are there FOR them and happy to serve and help them.

    Stage 3: Business is booming. You’re a hot commodity. EVERYONE wants a piece of you. You don’t have time. You can’t make time for everyone cause you’d have NO time for yourself. You wanted all this attention. You got it. Now you don’t have the time or resources to deal with everyone and you wish they would just LEAVE you alone. But they won’t! Why not? You’ve been training them for months or years that you’re available. WTF wouldn’t they think you’d be the same person you were before you got famous? The problem is NOT THEM. It’s you. Start training people NOW for when you won’t have time. Set boundaries. Carve out time for yourself. Imagine yourself beset by millions. How would you respond? Who would you say “No,” to and why? Determine your boundaries NOW and practice saying No while you can. Then, when fame comes (as it has for you, and has for me) you can say confidently, securely and happily, “Thanks, but no thanks. No, Not now. I appreciate your input but I’m not going in that direction.” YOU hold the power. Not “them.”

  • Anita C says:

    This has been a constant struggle for me. I hate the phrase “it’s not my job” as a reason to blow people off and I try to at least refer to someone who can help; yet, I need to learn to say this, at least on occasion. One of my biggest strengths is networking and helping people find resources, but I do feel resentful sometimes when I can’t get to what I want to do because I am spenidng so much time running around for other people. I need to keep working on balancing being helpful with learning the power of saying “No”. (And not feel guilty about that!)

  • Heather Thorkelson says:

    I have an allergy to all of all of the quotations listed in this post. And I have to say, I attribute so much of my success to unabashedly controlling my time. Unless you have something to say, or contribute in a way that is going to rock my world, I’m probably busy doing Really Important Things. I know that sounds terrible because we’re such a polite society (AND I’m a woman!) but I see so many people around me, and most of my clients being pushed around by other people’s agendas and I think it’s an incredible waste. Whose life are you living anyway? Awesome post Chris.

  • Willow says:

    Such an important lesson – learning to trust your own judgments! I know how easy it is to fall into complacency thinking that other people must know best, be more experienced, know something I don’t… so easy for trust of others to become distrust of ones self.
    It was a truly empowering moment when I realized that I could say ‘no’ to people. My time used to be so monopolized, I remember complaining to friends and family that I had no time to get together because I had another job to get to, or another place someone had asked me to be. Finally someone suggested I say “no” to people, but still it took me awhile to accept that it was even possible.
    I remember so clearly the first time I turned someone down, not because I was already booked but because I just. Didn’t. Want to.
    Thanks for writing this post, and reminding me how important my time and attention is!

  • Deb Cooper-Asberry says:

    Thank you SO much for this post! As the owner of 2 small businesses, I’m constantly bombarded by other people’s/businesses’ priorities being falsely attached to mine. I used to think I needed to be ‘nice’ and ‘hear them out’ , but after re-defining my own goals it has become easier to say (as you so aptly put it!) “Sorry, I’m not available right now.” Bravo, keep these great reminders coming!

  • Ruth says:

    Lordy! This couldn’t have come at a better time.

    I’m self employed but my (now 10 years in) manager of my very small business of 16 years tells me all the time what will work/won’t work and it’s definitely been tough to stand up to him. He was over selling, making unreasonable claims that put pressure on me, over working me and taking too much control. I despise the comment: “What you’re not understanding is…” and “If you just put more money into your business in this way…”

    It’s all too easy for me to just not answer his calls in the week hassling me for this and that. I’m quite happy keeping my business, which does quite well by my standards, small and independent and I don’t intend to become a mogul as I like free time to get away from work and travel internationally. I like what I do because I like being self employed and for me it brings in more in richness than riches.

    I also dislike: “But if you just listened I could have you booked in this city and that city.”

    Sometimes the hardest thing is to just say NO THANKS.

  • Dan Miller says:

    Chris – I live just outside of Nashville, TN which I know is a very popular destination. But because of that I get 3-4 messages a week which are essentially the same – “Hey I’m going to be in Nashville and I’d love to take you to lunch.” I know it is an honor for people to want to spend time with you but if I said yes to those constant invitations it would take a big chunk of my time. I have to decide in advance how I will invest those 168 precious hours each week. Then when someone asks, I can say as you’ve suggested, “I’m sorry, I already have a commitment at that time.”

    Building an audience is a challenging task – we want to be supportive and encouraging but if we are also available at any given time we will cap our real potential quickly.

  • Harley says:

    I’m a first year teacher and a few weeks ago the principal sent an email to everyone at my school highlighting a classroom management PD series for teachers after school. Which is fine, but I don’t have a car and have class on one of the days it’s offered, so I disregarded the message.

    Yesterday, my new teacher mentor sent me an email about the same PD series the principal did then came to speak to me an hour after she sent it to tell me she sent the email and to see that I was attending the PD series. I told her I had class on the one day and she persisted with another day at a different location I’d be able to go to. I asked her to send me an email with information and I’d look at it.

    The next email had the information with a note saying that the facilitator of the series knows I will be coming.

    Um, I never said yes.

    On one hand, I do struggle with classroom management as a new teacher. On the other, I really do not want to rush right after work to a PD series for 11 weeks.

    I took a classroom management class in grad school and got next to nothing out of it, but who knows if this one is different. It is potentially beneficial.

    To go or not to go?

  • Phranc Lamm says:

    Of course many of your options are limited when you work for someone else. If you value your job most employers put strict boundaries around your time and prioritizations. The lower you are on the totem pole the tighter these boundaries are. Many are just thankful to have a job so the alternative of jumping into the unknown and finding something else is scary.

    Even if you work for yourself as I do your customers become your boss to some degree, thats why its very important to choose them wisely. The 80-20 rule applies so if you can focus your efforts on the 20% of your customers that provide most of your business and eliminate the time wasters you will be much more efficient.

  • David Sholes says:

    Absolutely! And the telephone is the biggest tool that people use to do this.

    I discovered some time back that most people have no ability NOT to answer their phone. They assume that if someone is calling THEM it must be important. I mean, they’re calling ME afterall.

    I stopped answering my phone several years ago. I answer calls that I have initiated, but allow all other calls go to voicemail. If it’s truly important I will return the call. People have learned this about me and once they understand they have stopped abusing my phone number and my time. My landline (which I unfortunately do need to keep) goes directly into a fax machine – so callers get a fax signal.

    Just one of my favorite examples.

  • David Pederson says:

    The other goal zapper I get is:

    “If you just do this one uninteresting, tedious, dead-end thing for me, I am sure it will lead to these more interesting challenges for you.”

    I don’t know about you but each time I have, against my better judgement, agreed it has only confirmed what I expected; that I gave up my time without making the world a better place or advancing on my own path.

    I love to help others but I’m not so keen on just being used as a means to a dead end.

    Keep ’em coming Chris. You make my mornings a better place.

  • Kim says:

    Two years ago I realized that I was spending the greatest part of every day listening to people far more fortunate than me as they called, IMed, etc. about their troubles. Despite my own far more desperate situation (abusive husband, low income), I listened and helped with whatever was in my power to do. My own life and health deteriorated while theirs all went along as smoothly as ever. But they were never happy, always complained, always dumped on me.

    Finally, I left the husband and two “best” friends, and distanced myself from mom and adult kids. I did what I could to gain a life for myself and my remaining child at home.

    The kids are back in my life and far more respectful. The friends are gone for good and I don’t miss them.

    The hardest was my mom, who griped to me hour after hour every day without end about her life. When I once told her that my life was a thousand times harder and asked why she never listened to me; she called me a downer, hung up on me and gave up on me. Now she spends all those hours every day griping to my adult daughter.

    I miss my mom but I have never been happier. I respect myself now, which makes me a better mother and friend to others.

  • Jarie Bolander says:

    Unfortunately, this happens way too much in corporations. The general MO is “everything is a #1 priority” (hardly) or “Just to this and this” (sure, that’s bound to work) or “Is this done yet?” (like you gave it to me an hour ago — like above).

    I have learned that giving advice or taking advice for that matter is best when directly asked for and never when freely given. Too often, we get wrapped up in the “me” of a situation and really don’t truly understand what someone else is going through (we try and convince ourselves but it futile).

    I also learned that when your boss says something, they assume it’s already done and can’t fathom why it’s not. That’s the “just” dialog above — they think it’s easy because to them, it’s already done!

    One good technique is to “Start with No.” I know, it seems brutal but it’s your time and you need to manage it. By starting with no, you need to be convinced that it’s the right thing to do.

    The other thing to remember is you can print money but you can’t print time. You time is worth something so value it like it rare and special.

  • Emerson says:

    This can also take the form of an implied, usually ongoing and escalating threat of losing your livelihood.

    Added “responsibility” without fair compensation isn’t a win-win.

  • Cat says:

    “Your lack of planning is not my emergency.”
    This is a keeper. I am going to use this one.

  • Deb says:

    Yes! After one two many times of a neighbor trying to tell me how to run my life, I took out my frustrations in designing a t-shirt. You might be surprised how much that helped! And, I ignored the phone calls.

  • Gwen Lucas says:

    Back in the day when we had a land-line, our answering machine message used to say: “Please leave a message, and we’ll call you back at our earliest convenience.” Heavy emphasis on the “our.” I was always surprised at how many people took offense to that message. We were just being up-front.

    The people you describe in this post are a sub-set of the people Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, calls crazymakers. I love that term and it’s helped me identify the energy-suckers in my life.

  • Joseph Bernard says:

    I have been a therapist for 35 years, people always want me to listen to them even when what they are saying in not healthy for them. My job is to listen and help them find their own truth. I redirect often. Patient is a helpful tool.

    When working in a treatment program, I have to set limits all the time or people will talk my ears off. I am skilled at cutting short endless monologues coming my way. I usually breathe more deeply and find the right response in the moment. Kindness is also a powerful tool.

    People really want to be heard.
    Ego wants to be paid attention to.
    Experts want to show they know.
    Guilt tripping is fear at work.
    Many are playing the game of seeking approval.
    All of these are OK but may need to be redirected without judging.

    Stepping back and being aware of what is going on allows me to respond with compassion while setting limits. I will not be rushed. I live and work at my own pace.
    Self-care is often important when working with others.

  • Mary H says:

    This is something I’ve been struggling with. I have one area of my life that is important to me, my “legacy project/tower”…however, I also have another unrelated job which is supposed to be a means to an end. My boss thinks it is my main job, my “reason for living”…but it isn’t. How to keep doing a good job without making his priorities become mine is a tall order, but I’m working on it.

  • Brenda Horton says:

    When we are clear on our values and goals, it is much easier to make decisions and saying yes or no to someone or something becomes effortless.

  • Jessica Byrnes says:

    It hasn’t happened to me – but whenever someone asks for my advice, I never volunteer the obvious solution. I ask them “How do you think you could handle that problem?” – because people will rarely take your advice, no matter how sane! Make THEM come up with the solution, and then they know it was their idea and will likely follow it.

  • Cristina says:

    For sure, this happened a lot in my ‘previous life’ while working a lot for the system, 8h a.m to 5h p.m. I just love and use that powerful words! Fair winds, Cristina.

  • Lisa Capehart says:

    Some of these steps are very similar to the ones I ask that my coaching clients to address as they work on life changes! Works in business AND in life! Reminds me of a quote that is hard for many of my clients to embrace, but they must: “Every ‘Yes’ to my life’s purpose requires a corresponding chorus of ‘No’s’ to the conflicting purposes of others.” – Pam Shaw, Mary Kay National Sales Director

  • Wandering Minimalist says:

    Fun read.
    I went through a number of these steps last week with a potential client. He came out the gate by rushing me to critique his project the very same day. I eventually got a proposal out to him, but my rates weren’t pleasing to him, so he suggested I learn to put the customer first, lower my rates, and other unfounded demands, in an attempt to guilt me into lowering my rates. I blew up at him finally which, looking back, probably wasn’t the best response, but fortunately that’s where our professional relationship ends.

  • Vanessa says:

    I am guilty of doing this at work but I really dislike being on the receiving end so I try to do it less. I also learned the hard way by committing to organize I conference when it didnt feel like a personal priority for me.

    Guarding time to do things for yourself is important. I find that even with social plans, I sometimes agree to attend something that either is inconvenient or my heart isn’t in. I worry at those times that I am just being selfish and social relationships are important. Do you have a rule of thumb to apply to committing to social engagements, especially for those middle type friends or acquaintances?

  • matteo sica says:

    This is a beautiful piece of advice. Thank you.
    What I would like to add from my personal viewpoint is that sometimes this happens because we actively let this happen. And this is possible only when people are not ready to engage in the growth and improving of their own life, so they let their guards off and let other people to suck on their own blood. So they have an excuse: “I dont have time for changing my life!”
    Peace and thank you for your writings they are helping me very much

  • Hannah Albert says:

    There is a fine line between being of service in the world and giving away your soul.

    My experience of living with integrity means continuously moving towards the integration of opposites, the yin and yang/ dark and light. I’ve been guilty of both giving and taking too much. The beauty of growing older is the wisdom that comes from having made many mistakes.

    I’m grateful I get to infuse the medicine I practice and my art (another form of medicine) with this hard-earned wisdom.

  • Mardra says:

    Perfect for today as I have dubbed March – the month of “No.”
    It has already become, “No, except…”
    I’ll have to hold my ground.

  • Aimee P says:

    Yes, so many people in todays world try to “get into our kitchens”….and even when we know it, this ego steps in and tells us to “not look bad”. Sheesh.

    I have to admit, (gulp) that I recently was the “person trying to take over someones life”. I was in a management position. In order to do the best job I could, I found it very helpful to meet regularly with a peer in the organization so we could share information (he was privy to info about our client that I didn’t have, and vice-a-versa) . We both clearly wanted to do the best job possible. Yet, he didn’t want to meet. He thought that we should work totally separate from each other, and didn’t understand why I needed him, and he felt that he had no need for me. I asked him what times he was available to meet, way in advance of deadlines.

    Have you been in a similar situation? What have you guys done in this situation? I really want to hear what you did. I don’t anticipate it coming up with my new world dominating biz because I have 100% power to pick and choose my partners, but I am sure that it will come up again some time in the future. This one was really a doozey. And I want to be prepared next time!

  • Rosien says:

    Wow, I say things like this on more than one occassion. Oops. Not that I consciously try to take over peoples lives but sometimes I get blinded by my own enthusiasm and assume that everyone is just as obsessed with the new project/a new hobby/random stuff as I am, and then just shove it down their throat.

    Speaking of an eye opener…

  • Carol says:

    You have hit the nail on my head. I had to read this twice. Aware I am a chronic enabler, I’ve fought the please-everybody compulsion because it is really the everybody-is-more-important than me compulsion. My head knows I’m as important as any body else, but am still working on acting like it. When my husband and I had an electrical contracting business I found it much easier to identify and deal with time/money-vampires. I learned if someone started an association with unrealistic demands (not requests) it would never end throughout the entire project and billing process. So not worth it. Still trying to apply this common sense observation to my private life. Thank you for this and the related posts. I’m printing and posting them around my computer for everyone to read.

  • Erick Widman says:

    This is a tricky issue. Building friendships and business relationships with others is the most rewarding and critical thing you can do. But as you described, you can get sucked into the black hole of others’ demands and priorities. The key is the right kind of boundaries, but it’s hard to know exactly what those are.

  • Jeanette says:

    “Sorry, I’m not available right now.”

    From what I’ve seen, the only people who can get away with saying that in a corporate environment (or even a small, privately owned biz) are owners. And it’s not an ideal way to respond to one’s own clients. I’ve found that immediately responding with what I can do (versus what I won’t do) is the better way to go. It’s never good business to start with a “no.” Personally, I believe in the value of a “good” “no” but that’s not how others see it as I’ve learned from experience.

    I believe boundaries are important in business especially as they may affect how you work and the quality of the work you produce. That said, if you work for someone else, you really can’t use that phrase and expect to come out unscathed. Some of you will lose a job. Your job IS to be available in most situations. And,yes, it is often very unproductive and an interference.

  • charlino says:

    Thank you for your post. As one who grew up believing my time was not my own, your post really hit home. It seems the older I get, the more valuable my time has become, and I’ve learned that saying ‘no’ sometimes is paramount to my completing a project from start to finish.

    However, based on my life’s experience, there are times when one is subjected to the ‘squeaky wheel.’ Regardless whether you are working for yourself, or for someone else, there is always one of them. Depending on the individual, one can only listen to the squeak for so long before caving in to get the wheel off one’s back.

    Sometimes, no matter who, what, or where you are, when someone asks, needs, or wants your time, it is rather difficult to say no without having jumped through a hoop first. Sometimes being civil, humble, and kindly saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean the wheel stops squeaking, and just saying no isn’t enough.

  • Cayla says:

    It’s happening to me right now. Ahhhhhhhh

  • Amanda says:

    “Your lack of planning is not my emergency”.

    I understand that all too well, especially as I work in a creative field – in Tasmania, Australia – and clients don’t value creativity and the creative process as they should.

    Writing and coming up with ideas is ‘easy’ apparently, and I should just ‘do this one little thing for them’, or give them ‘5 minutes of my time to workshop something’ (for free, of course)…

    Yes, I actually do find writing and coming up with ideas easy, but I’ve learnt the hard way that that doesn’t mean I should devalue what I do – which immediately leads to others devaluing it…

    In fact, to take back creative control (and to avoid having to cap my influence and earnings), I’ve decided to make the move away from selling my skills by the job, hour or word, and to start creating products/resources that answer my client’s needs.

    This way, my clients will still benefit from what I can offer, but I’m not bound by conventional and restrictive ways of working – and no longer at their beck and call.

    YAY to boundaries and calling the shots!

  • Marcus Wickes says:

    Although David Thorne is a little crude, rude, or offensive for many readers, his post is very much talking about this idea of “quick” (aka free and time intensive) work.

    “I was wondering if you are not to busy you could make a poster for me.”

  • Jim Dee says:

    Awesome post… Good lord, if I had a buck for every “We need this done right away” I’ve heard, I could retire — especially from those who say this with every single project they have. The thing is, it never means just “put this on top of your priority list” (which would be a reasonable request from a client or a boss). It means (among other things): I need you to (1) stress out over this thing, (2) fit this $2,000 project into my $500 budget, and (3) also accept full responsibility for it, since you’re doing the work.

    lol… One time, I was on a job interview. The woman asked, “What would you say if we came to you at 4:45 p.m. on a Friday and said we needed you to stay until 8:00 p.m. to get something out the door?” I replied: “What would I say? I’d say you have a management problem.” Guess who didn’t get the job? (And guess who didn’t want it, anyway!) 🙂

  • Nancy Burrows says:

    Thank you for this post! It is a great reminder that we are in control of our lives not others. I am sure I am not the only one to admit that this happens to me almost everyday; I am always more than willing to give in to others demands. I will try to keep this in mind next time I get bombarded with demands or unnecessary meeting invites.

  • Roy Marvelous says:

    I used to let this happen to me. Now, I’m quite direct – if people aren’t able to follow my timeframe, the job can’t be done.

  • Kirsty says:

    A very timely post. Thank you.

    I’ve been making myself available out of hours to customers recently, and it has been used and abused. So I won’t make appointments out of hours now, it’s a shame that a few people can ruin it for people who may really need the service.

    “Your lack of planning is not my emergency”. This phrase is my new mantra.

  • Nick says:

    I like the last sentence although I would remove the “Sorry”. No need to apologize to someone if you’re not available for them to waste your time…

  • Eli G says:

    Not only that this has happened to me but I would also like to offer another perspective of it.The first thing that I realized while reading the post was that I recognize myself in the examples and the people who can consume time.I used to do that, more like be that especially when I was establishing the NGO, and now from this perspective I understand where this reaction (and action) comes from.I had low self-confidence, felt I lacked many skills, was overwhelmed with fear, and was making altars for people who I admired and who had made a difference etc.And then it’s almost like going as far as waiting for someone else to make your decisions. I was lucky enough that the people who’s time I consumed were great mentors who knew that sometimes “no” is the best answer you can give to someone. Knowing that you’re helping them develop, grow and find their independence. Especially in the long run. Being on both sides and understanding the underlying causes, I always remind myself that “no” is healthy when the intent is set right.

  • John King says:

    A good friend who worked in the engineering field shared that they told potential clients there is a triangle connected to design: cost, quality (how complicated the item is) and time (how quickly the new item can be built). Said potential client would shake his/her head in agreement, but then the shocker would come, “You can choose any two, but those impact the third.”

    If you want low cost and high quality, then that will take a long time because it will only be possible when our shop has no other jobs on which we can work. If you want high quality in a short time, the cost will be a premium because you are asking us to table every other project we have in shop.

    Pointing this reality out helps to “train” them to realize you cannot make their priorities yours because what they are asking for is unreasonable.

  • Yael Grauer says:

    This is a good post, but I agree with Jeanette… I think it’s just as important to be polite and kind as it is to set good boundaries, and responding with what one *can* do is a good practice. People don’t want to discuss things or get input to waste your time. They want to discuss things and get input because they respect you, or because they value your opinion. And it’s natural to want to see why someone they think is the bees knees wouldn’t be interested in a project. (Back before I owned my own biz and had job interviews, I’d always ask what I could do to strengthen my application–not because I was trying to be manipulative, but because I wanted to get better.) Although I can’t count on an explanation when I ask someone why something isn’t a good fit, I would hope that I’d be treated with appropriate consideration. And I have no problem explaining to someone else why something is beyond the scope of a project as I’d agreed to it, or why I’m not interested in a project, etc. Great food for thought.

  • Aurooba Ahmed says:

    This happens. A lot, sometimes. I think it’s hardest to walk away from it when it comes from the people you care about in your life, such as close family members and friends. I’ve recently been pondering the idea that it’s important to live your own life and not someone else’s IDEA of your life. After all, you are the one living your life, so why are you letting someone else dictate the terms and conditions?

    Once in a while, a lot of us find that we are being treated like puppets, with thoughts and ideas that even when acknowledged by others, don’t seem to make a difference. Perhaps, that is a sign that we need to stop looking for permission from others, and give ourselves the permissions to lead our OWN lives.

    Good food for thought. Thanks Chris.

  • Claudia Good says:

    No this never happens to me! 😉

    Just said no twice today and it felt great! What freedom!!

  • Mary Hope says:

    Enjoyed reading all the posts.

    The world can be demanding and saying “yes” all the time is not possible for any of us. Being able to choose when to say “yes” is a freedom we all want.

    It all boils down to the reasons we are saying “yes” or “no”.

    Life is a balancing act! Balance is needed in everything we do: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Not being pulled too far to the left or right, but to keep on “going forward” is the goal.

    Too many yeses and too many noes will get us out of balance!

    When saying “yes” or “no”, both need to be said with a clear conscience.

    Thanks Chris, for a thought provoking post.

  • Laura Hogan says:

    As my therapist said, “‘No’ is a complete sentence.”

  • Steve Rice says:

    This really comes down to disrespect. It’s easy to fall into the perpetrator role, though. It’s easy to become so focused on what we want to achieve and the outcome we want to attain, that it’s easy to bowl over the time, motives and priorities of others in order to achieve our goals.

    Being mindful of this tendency is a great first step to eliminating it. Of course, healthy boundaries in any relationship are essential.

  • peter bryenton says:

    Saying “no” increases the worth of our “yes”.

  • Elisa says:

    Great post Chris! Perfect timing: just when I’ve had to say a courageous ‘No!’ to a person of authority. What I’ve learned – echoing many other posts – is that establishing clear personal boundaries is the key.

    External ‘influence’ can come in so many shapes and forms – some intentional, others unintentional. The saving grace: personal consistency in honouring your own beliefs, values, and vision.

  • Melanie Smithson says:

    Great post. Wish I could get as good at saying no to the distracting voices in my head as I am to the ones on the phone!

  • Man Wall says:

    There is nothing worse than someone in a similar position as you giving you advice on how to get out of said position. Like when I have a cigarette with my friend and he’s telling me exactly how to quit smoking.

  • Peter Sandoval says:

    I am guilty of both sides of the spectrum. Being controlled and manipulation. These words really struck a chord with me. Thank you for your honesty.

Your comments are welcome! Please be nice and use your real name.

If you have a website, include it in the website field (not in the text of the comment).

Want to see your photo in the comments? Visit to get one.