The initial years of an Entrepreneur’s life are difficult.

Consider this:

  • As an Employee, you always had a senior to resolve your issues. Now, you have some 10 odd employees looking up to you for every small decision.
  • As an Employee, you could do things and get away with them. I mean, what is the worse that could happen? You could be sacked and then, you eventually find a new job. Now, you cannot screw!

From the word go — You are supposed to be the “Mature Leader” your startup needs. A mature leader who has to maintain the decorum and set high standards for everyone.

Imagine the plight of a 20-year-old something who is expected to be this “Perfect Entrepreneur”.

In reality, the so-called perfect entrepreneur is still learning the hows and whats of simple things in life and business, like “How to say no politely in business?

Let me tell you a confession.

Can I get a priest and a confession room in the church, please?

Because what I am going to write is a very candid confession.

On a second thought, I will be happy to make a confession without a priest. My agnostic behaviour makes me repulsive to priests and the hypocrisy which comes with them.

So, in my initial entrepreneurial days — when I wandered with a hamlet-anian start of mind (To be or not to be — that is the question in mind!), I got royally (no offence to my majesty) screwed for my reluctance to “say No” to people .

Yeah, I know you are laughing your ass off after reading the above lines.

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How on the earth can someone get screwed for his/her reluctance to “Say No”?

It’s so easy to say it. Let me show you how it is done.

Say it out loud.

“NO”.

See, I told you. It’s just a two letter alphabet.

Looks like I was making a big fuss about nothing 🙁

How about you use No in few sentences and use it with emotions:

  • No. I don’t want to approve your travel bills.(I am angry)
  • No. I do not want you to make this expense. (I want to show my authority)
  • No. I cannot approve your leave even when someone is dead in your family (where is the empathy?)

The word No is one of the most difficult words to use.


As someone who started his first venture at a relatively young age, my reluctance to say No — costed me dearly.

I tried every trick in the book to learn to say — No.

Despite all my trying to learn. I still sucked at it.

If i was to measure my inability to saying No on a scale of 0 to 10, i easily scored a 9.

I would always try and be that nice gentleman who did not want to offend anyone.

Instead of saying “No”, I would find alternate ways to avoid the topic (a big mistake).

Some said, my reluctance to say “No” had everything to do with my sun sign.

I shooed them away.

Until I read how my sun sign is the real culprit behind my inability to say No.


I am a Libran.

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Yes, the same Librans who are born to balance the world 😊.

As per my sun sign, my characteristics are (i mapped them to my characteristics and they, so bloody match!):

– Balanced: I am as balanced as a human can get. Have you noticed how I balance my religion with my business? I usually spend 5 hours praying for my business orders to come via God and spend the rest 3 hours in a day actually work and the Lord hears me!

– Communicative: If they meant — Chatterbox by Communicative. Trust me, they are bang on the target.

– Fair: I am fair and square. You stab my back with a knife, I get back to you with a pack of knives 😉.

– Charming: My reputation precedes me. Ask anyone from my college days on how they fell for my irresistible charm.

– Loving: My love for humanity is endless.

– Harmonious: I have always been for world peace and Donald Trump!


You must be confused? None of the so-called characteristics above can be blamed for my reluctance to say “No”.

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All they do is portray me as a “Self-obsessed fool”.

Wait! Before you close the article, I have kept the best ones (of all the Libran characteristics) for the end.

They will prove that Librans struggle to lie because of their characteristics is not a fallacy.

– People Pleaser: Oh Yes. I am a Libran, who hates to offend people. Instead of offending, I would go that extra mile to please people. Even if it meant selling my kidneys for them.

– Gullible: In God and every human of God — I Trust! I, like all my libran friends, can easily be persuaded to believe in things said by the good people of the world.

Long story cut short (minus the horoscope B.S).

Yes. The 20 something old me just at the start of my entrepreneurial journey sucked at saying No.

How did it impact me?

Everyone (employees, clients, vendors) took advantage.

They figured out my weakness and how I hid behind my weakness.

I lost money and time both by not putting my foot down (when i should have).

Here are few instances I clearly remember from days when I wanted to say No but stopped because of my “people loving” ability (Remember. I told you, I am a people lover? ).

Screwed by the VP:

Around 1.5 years back, we hired a VP to take our company to the next level. (even I don’t know what that meant. It’s a line he frequently used and it kind of got stuck with me)

From day one, we were in awe of his experience and got carried away by his big talks.

One day he said — sorry demanded. (The word “Said” is reserved for low rung employees of the organization like me) “I will work from home”.

He had just joined and we usually, do not allow work from home for new resources.

I wanted to say No but then, he had some family thing and I being the gullible Libran agreed to his demand.

The next time he demanded tissue papers in his cabin.

The day after that he wanted something else and the list went on and on.

I kept avoiding his stupid tantrums because he was to take us to the next level.

In my mind, i always kept playing the lines “All this means nothing if he gets us one big project”.

Ultimately, he was sacked for fraud within 2–3 months of his joining.

I so wish, I had said No to him from day one.

That simple NO would have kept him in check.

We wouldn’t have to part on such a bad note.

The Client with “endless” demands:

Have you worked with the government?

No. you haven’t.

You, lucky guy! Work with them and you will realize what are the repercussions of saying No to the govt officers.

In my first year of working with govt, I learned a golden rule “Never say No”.

Oh yes! The diplomatic me got to live a life of no “Nos”.

In one of our project meetings, a senior government level officer asked me to develop a module where we can use a camera to click the photo of an animal and by pixel mapping, they could trace the emotions of animal and analyse, if the animal was in pain.

Now — that’s some high fundoo technology.

I immediately wanted to say “No”. I wanted to tell the guy that in this budget, it is not possible.

Forget budget, this was just not possible. Even if it was — I don’t know how It will be done.

So, rather than saying no. I said: “we will look into it and get back to you”.

And I thought it was the end of the story.

Well! In govt, there is no end of stories.

There are only endless meetings and agendas from the last meeting.

The officer kept repeating this story until I called up our sr. person and told him “it is not possible”.

Phew! That was some animal-emotion capturing incident (I plan to soon write a novel and remind me, I do not miss this incident then).

And then there are many more:

– An employee wanted us to give him a certificate with extra months added to it. He was with us for a very long time.

Obviously, what he was asking for was unethical and I didn’t want to do it. He kept calling me and I kept avoiding the topic — only to end on bad terms with him.

– Another client kept asking for endless changes on the website for a fixed cost project.

The client had given the project on a fixed cost and had no sense of what it means for an hourly based service company. I avoided the client and a 1-month project extended to good 3 months, leading to unwanted losses.

Apart from my professional life, there are endless stories of how much saying NO can help simplify real life.

From pushy sales persons to Needy family relatives to friends.

Let me ask you a simple question “Why do we avoid saying “No”?”

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Forget the Zodiac sign B.S I wrote above.

In past, I did not say (or avoided saying) No because:

– I did not want to offend others.

– I believed them very easily.

– I empathized with their situation.

– I avoided the situation which would have happened — had I said, No.

What have I learned over the years?

The wiser me — with 35 years of age, a bunch of white hair on my beard and a face that sabotages all my plans of looking young has learned some valuable lessons over the years.

One of them is that in Business, you have to learn to politely say No. You are a Prude who cannot be rude 🙂

How to Say No Politely in Business: 

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a. Why avoid the unavoidable? The situations where you do not want to create a scene by saying No are the ones, you regret the most.

Face them by saying a firm “No”.

If you don’t. someone out there is waiting to take advantage of you.

Few tears. few anger outbursts are nothing in comparison to the lifelong pain you will go through for not saying No.

b. I don’t believe people easily (now). There was a time when I always thought about others before me (yes. I was a kind soul — once upon a time).

Now, I take some time to think about my situation before saying “Yes” when I should be saying No and i do not trust people very easily (my wife would be so proud of me for being less gullible).

c. Let’s leave Diplomacy to diplomats. Yup — You read It right. I am by no mean a diplomat and I am not here to say “yes” to anyone’s unfeasible demands.

If you are a grumpy client who likes to suck the blood out of my overweight body, please pay the right amount of money for the service.

If you are an employee who wants a favour which is not by the rule book, screw you.

d. Be firm when saying No: A no means No. I know that’s an overused line in our film industry. (why feel shy when it is so overused 😉 ).

Here is a free food for thought for you “Indecisiveness is your biggest weakness. A meek No is a sign of indecisiveness” and the people around you are smart enough to judge your nature.

Speak with a straight face and a firm voice and mean it, when you say it.

e. Ask for some time before saying No: I know life is not all black and white and it is not as simple as we make it sound.

There are times when you have friends who are in dire need of money.

You can only help them only if you are financially sound. Right?

What if you are surviving from one paycheck to another?

This is where you buy some time.

And then you find ways to help them before you tell them No.

You don’t say a direct No to them. Instead, you explain them your situation and help them in some way or them.

Probably, help them get a short-term loan.

Today, How easy is it for me to say “No”?

I will say “I am a Work in Progress”.

What do you mean by “Work in Progress?”

You will know when you get there 😊.

Till I write next — Bye!

Jasmeet Singh on EmailJasmeet Singh on LinkedinJasmeet Singh on TwitterJasmeet Singh on Youtube
Jasmeet Singh
Just another Entrepreneur at Lessons At Startup
Jasmeet has been a part of multiple Ventures. He earns his bread and butter by hanging onto his first venture, a Software Company located in India.

He is at present working on a new startup idea which like all startups will be "Disruptive" (at least he thinks so :) )

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