learn how to say no

When and How to Say NO

This guest post is all about learning how to say no, because, as you may guess, we all too often say yes. I’ll clarify that saying yes isn’t a bad thing, until it becomes detrimental. You want to be sure that you’re saying yes to things that really matter, and that when something stops serving you, you are strong enough to say no.

Without further ado…

Women have been fighting for equality at home and in the workplace for generations. While we’ve made many strides in closing the gender pay gap and a career-driven woman is more readily accepted, there is still a struggle to gain the same recognition and respect as our male counterparts. 

Why We Can’t Say No

The pressure and competition, along with the desire to be liked and respected, drives much of our decision making. We want to show everyone that we can work hard and be open to opportunities. As a result, we often feel the need to say yes to most opportunities that come our way.

While much of what drives us stems from our future goals, the instinct to say yes is rooted in the past. Little girls are taught that politeness and kindness are some of the most important qualities, that being agreeable, not raising your voice, and ensuring everyone around you is happy is a priority.

Not being able to say no is sometimes due to a sense of obligation, and for wanting to come across as a team player. Saying no comes with feeling guilty. Saying no directly seems way too mean, so the rejections often come sandwiched between excuses.

Learning How To Say No

It’s important to learn how to say no, and say it effectively. Too often, we are not clear in our communication, and so the person we are trying to say no to doesn’t understand or thinks that they need to keep pursuing us.

For instance, let’s say your colleague asked you to help out on a new project. The project isn’t very exciting. Yet you, being the hardworking woman that you are, don’t mind contributing. At first, you say yes, but then realize you have prior commitments, and upon further introspection decide that maybe the project isn’t for you.

Now the dilemma of communicating that your answer has changed. We often beat around the bush, make excuses, or try to launch into explanations. Any of those things will just lead to confusion, It’s important to say no directly and effectively.


It’s important to remember that “No” is a complete sentence. If that sounds harsh, then try a “no, thanks”. You don’t need to explain your decision, and you don’t need to make excuses.

You can stop concerning yourself with how you will be perceived because, in the short term, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that when you do devote time to something, that it has your full attention. When you say yes to everything, you dilute your focus and spread yourself too thin. Saying no, then, over time, increases your productivity and allows you to build up a reputation of being reliable.

How To Stand Your Ground

First and foremost, saying no becomes easier when you know what your priorities are. Understanding your own goals and aspirations makes it easier for you to identify what you need to do to reach them. Then, when you realize that something isn’t going to work for you, you can let it go.

Next, be firm and definitive in your response. It does not matter whether you want to decline the offer/invitation due to a busy schedule, lack of interest, or any other reason. All you have to do is stay firm on your decision. Express your gratitude for receiving the offer, but make your point clear. 

“That sounds amazing, thank you for the opportunity. Unfortunately, my current plans do not allow me to take on this responsibility. I’m sure that some other people would love to participate, and they would probably do a better job than myself.”

A response like this allows you to reject the offer gracefully, without leaving any room for further discussion. And trust me, people will only respect you more for being direct. If you don’t beat around the bush, you are not only saving your own time but also theirs!

Above all, don’t apologize. You aren’t being rude, and you aren’t ruining your chances for career growth. Standing up for yourself and realistically evaluating your capabilities shows that you are confident and not afraid to identify a personal challenge. 

I learned the hard way

As a Russian native, I have seen enough women abandon the idea of building a successful career on the basis of it being “unfeminine”. Ever since I was very young, I always knew I wanted a large and dynamic career. I wanted to break through, applying for as many jobs as possible, in order to diversify my duties and income. I was eager to learn, gain experience, work hard, and even go for sleepless nights in order to achieve my personal goals. 

My young age and lack of long term experience, though, kept my options pretty limited. As a result, I made it my goal to make the most out of every opportunity I received. It did not matter to me whether my boss was genuinely overwhelming me, whether I was doing more work than I originally signed up for, or even whether my own family was missing my presence for weeks. And as you would assume, it wasn’t long before my first burnout.

I am very glad I had this experience, as it completely changed my self-evaluation for the better. Saying ‘no’ does not mean that you are not capable or don’t possess enough time-management skills to take on an extra task. It does not make you any weaker or less competent. It simply means that you respect your time and choose to spend it on something more valuable to you. And if your choice upsets someone, kindly remind yourself that your time is limited. Don’t let anyone but yourself control the way you spend that time.

Why It’s Important To Say No

I’d like to add some thoughts about this topic.

I think it’s important to learn how to say no, and get used to saying it, for a few reasons.

1 – It Frees Up Your Time

Saying no allows you to divert your time from activities that don’t serve you, and frees you to choose the things that do. Saying no allows you room to bring things into your life that you may not have even thought possible.

2 – It’s A Form Of Self Care

Saying no is a way to de-clutter your life, stand up for yourself, and give yourself the mental satisfaction of remembering that you have a choice.

When you say no, you choose you…and put yourself first.

3 – It Helps You Focus And Set Boundaries

Saying no keeps you from being pulled in all different directions, and show others the things that do matter to you. Rest assured, this is not something that will make people think that you have limitations; rather, setting healthy boundaries prevents your attention from being diluted, and you will come across as more dedicated.

4 – It Fuels Your Empowerment

Saying no is every empowering. It gives you total control over your time and your interests.

5 – It Fosters Success

As mentioned several times before, saying no allows you to focus on things that matter most to you. This in turn fosters, and ensures, success where you want it.

Final Thoughts

We can literally do it all. But we don’t need to do it all at once. Rather, we need to be intentional with how we spend our time because life is short. Spending time on things that aren’t going to help you just takes time away from family and friends and activities you find important.

So that project you don’t want to do? Don’t do it. That idea you have but don’t have time for? Place it on the back burner.

Learn how to say no to others so that you can say yes to yourself, your family, your friends, and your health.

Share how you learned to say no in the comments below!

Images courtesy of unsplash

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