If you harness the power of saying no you can avoid the problem of over-committing. You make a commitment. Then you make another. Before you know it, you’re making yet another commitment. It’s a never-ending cycle. You overcommit to your job, your friends, colleagues, causes, family, school, etc. These commitments add hundreds of hours and stress to an already over-scheduled life.

One of the most important things to remember is that time is finite. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never have enough time to do everything. However, once you truly accept that you can’t do it all, you can begin to prioritize your time. Doing this gives more opportunities to do the things that you really want to do, rather than the things that you feel you should do. Spending quality time with family and friends, achieving goals to improve your future, and just having time to yourself are prime examples.

Benefits of Saying No

Learning how to say “no” politely is the first real step to stop over-committing and better prioritizing your time. As you will soon see, there are many other benefits to saying no. In actuality, there are many more than are discussed here. These are some of the most important and represent a solid starting point on your journey to saying no.

Reduce Stress

In many instances, simply saying no goes a long way when it comes to reducing stress. Have you ever agreed to do something, only to feel the stress and pressure of actually getting it done? If so, you’re definitely not alone. It happens to everyone. No one is immune to the pressure of saying no.

Adding undue stress to your life is unhealthy. It can make you feel physically ill and can often cause strain between you and the person you’re trying to help.

It’s a proven fact that stress can be fatal. Of course, it’s virtually unheard of in situations like this. However, it’s something to keep in mind, if you are dealing with additional stresses in your life. Learning to say no is actually one of the easiest ways to reduce stress. It doesn’t cost anything. The only requirement is changing the way you look at things.

There are only so many hours in a day. Even the richest person in the world can't buy more time. Click to Tweet

Save Time

There are only so many hours in a day. Even the richest person in the world can’t buy more time. The good news is, even though your hours are limited, you’re in complete control of how you use them. Don’t let other people dictate how you spend your time, by expecting you to help them whenever they see fit. If they really appreciate you, they’ll understand why you can’t always help at the drop of a hat. You need to make it clear that you have your own priorities and responsibilities.

Increase Your Focus

It doesn’t hurt to say “yes” to people, when the things they need assistance with are related to your own goals. If the request sparks your interest, that’s even better! You might even have fun doing it. This actually helps you to increase the focus of your own life, which in turn helps you both professionally and in your personal life. The more focused you are, the easier it is to achieve both short-term and long-term goals.

When you take the time to think about it, each time you say “no” to someone else, you’re actually saying “yes” to yourself. Click to Tweet

Feel Stronger

When you take the time to think about it, each time you say “no” to someone else, you’re actually saying “yes” to yourself. Chances are you’ll soon notice a boost in your self-confidence and self-esteem levels. In addition, nine times out of 10, you’ll gain the respect of the person who asked for your help. He or she may initially be unhappy with your answer, but your true friends, family and colleagues typically won’t hold a grudge.

Give Yourself More Energy

Assisting with projects that you really don’t have time for, or have little interest in doing is a huge energy waster. It’s much more productive to put that same energy into something that interests you. You’ll feel better, you’ll be much happier, and will be more productive in the long run.

Saying No Helps You Be More Successful

Surprisingly, saying “no” can help many women achieve their goals. Why is that? It frees up time, which allows them to concentrate on themselves. Without having to worry about everyone else, it’s much easier for you to plan for your future. There’s no better time to work on the task of comfortably saying no.

Saying “no” helps you to stay true to yourself and stick to your goals. It also reduces distractions, which sometimes cause you to get behind on the most important things in your life. For many women, learning to say “no” with conviction lessens any feeling of guilt they once felt when turning down a request.

When you learn to say “no,” you set boundaries for yourself and the people around you. The ability to do this is probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Setting clear boundaries means that you’ll typically be presented with less intrusions and distractions, because others will know when they’re stepping over the line.

Some people will still try to take advantage of your helpful nature. However, by taking the time to set firm boundaries, you’ll eliminate some of the problem.

You can’t always be there for everyone. It’s physically impossible. You’d need more than 24 hours in the day to do everything that people want you to do. Create boundaries to help you save time when trying to decide whether you should volunteer to help. These help you to set limits ahead of time and make the decision-making process easier.

Why Women Don’t Say No

In general, women dislike telling others, “No.” You’d think that it would be the easiest thing in the world to do. After all, most of us started saying, “No,” when we were two years old, or younger. It’s not like we don’t know how to say it…or do we? There are many reasons why women resist saying no. The reasons are personal for each woman and set of circumstances. However, here are a few of the more common reasons why women have a difficult time telling others, “No.”

We Want to Help

Kind-hearted people are more inclined to want to help someone, when necessary. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with kindness. In fact, most people will tell you that the world needs more of it. However, don’t let people take advantage of your good nature. Remember, you’re only one woman. You can’t help everyone, even though you’d like to.

We Fear Conflict

No one likes the thought of an uncomfortable confrontation, especially with people who are near and dear to you. Fear of conflict is another reason why women find it hard to say “no.” The possibility of being rejected or having to deal with negative consequences (sometime in the future) are just two reasons why you may not be able to resist the urge to give in and say, ‘yes’.

We Fear Burning Bridges

It’s never wise to burn your bridges. Some people take “no” as a sign of rejection, just like in the previous example. In this type of situation, a severed relationship is entirely possible although it doesn’t happen as often as you might think.

Think twice before burning bridges. It may seem like a good idea at the time, especially if you’re dealing with animosity. However, once burned, bridges take a long time to rebuild. Don’t take the chance! You should not cut people out of your life too quickly. Rather than cut someone out completely or burn the bridge to the ground, use your boundaries to set limits for interaction or contact.

We Fear Lost Opportunities

The mere thought of lost opportunities is a concern for many women, especially when it comes to work-related or income-earning possibilities. The fear of losing a client or promotion can cause you to commit to something that you really don’t want to commit to. What you have to remember is that opportunities turn up when least expected. Just because you let one pass you by, doesn’t mean there isn’t another one waiting for you in the pipeline. Can you think of a time when you said no to something and something even better showed up?

We’re Afraid of Being Rude

Depending on your age or cultural upbringing, you may feel as though saying “no” is rude. If this is an issue that you’re constantly dealing with, now is a good time to work on changing the way you think. You can refuse to help someone in a kind manner. Simply be honest and relate the reason or reasons that prevent you from offering your assistance. Most people will understand your situation.

Saying No Is Easier When You’re Confident

Typically, the more confidence you have, the easier it is to say no. Consider these confidence-building tips, if you are in need of a little confidence boost.

Face Your Fears

It’s never easy to face your fears. However, when you do it successfully, there’s almost no better feeling. One of the biggest keys to accomplishing this is taking it one baby step at a time. It won’t happen overnight. However, every time you face your fears, your confidence level increases. In many cases, the old saying is true. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Use Your Imagination

Imagination is an amazing thing. It’s not that difficult to use yours to boost your confidence, which in turn makes it easier for you to tell someone, “no”. Visualization is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

For example, visualize that you’re going to and important meeting. Imagine yourself greeting the other attendees in a positive manner. Envision yourself smiling and enjoying the interaction. Watch the events unfolding in your mind, as you ask interesting questions and share informative answers. This is a very effective way to increase your self-confidence. When you can visualize yourself being successful, being confident is that much easier.

Improve Your Social Skills

Improving your social skills is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. This automatically helps you to sustain and improve your relationships, across the board. A few ways you can do this include learning about the basics of body language, discovering how NOT to make mistakes in conversation and the best ways to make a good impression. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Don’t waste it!

Pay Attention to How You Show up

If someone tells you that their self-confidence isn’t affected by their outward appearance, specifically by the way they dress, they’re probably not being completely truthful or they aren’t a woman. Dressing for success is important for several reasons. It has the ability to put you in a better mood, give you credibility, make you look more professional and give you a competitive advantage… just to name a few.

Dressing for success also affects the way people interact with you. Unfortunately, poorly dressed women are often looked down upon, which isn’t fair and does absolutely nothing for their self-confidence.

All of these things help to boost your self-confidence and make it less stressful to say “no,” when you need to. Being confident makes you stronger and less afraid of the “fallout” which may occur, should you tell someone that you are unavailable to assist, even if it is a reasonable request.

When Should You Say No?

Ask a dozen women to give you the definition of a “reasonable” request and you’ll probably get at least nine or ten different answers. Before you learn to identify this type of request, you have to come up with your own definition of the word.

There will be times when you can rule something out as unreasonable, right away. For example, if a friend wants to move a pet into your home for 4 weeks and you’re allergic to pets, you automatically know that that’s extremely unreasonable.

However, there are times when you have to consider all aspects of the request, before you decide how to proceed. An example of this might be writing a report in 48 hours or less. Some women, who don’t have much on their calendar, might be able to achieve this goal quite easily.

Depending on the word count of the report and the woman’s expertise, she could probably knock it out within that period and have time to spare. On the other hand, another woman with a busier schedule and limited knowledge on the subject would have a hard time completing the project on time.

With that being said, you can see why each request should be considered carefully. Examining the details helps you decide if the request is reasonable, given the circumstances, within your ability, and in your best interest. In the event that you’re initially unsure, sleep on it for at least 24 hours. You’ll probably be surprised by how clear everything seems after a proper night’s rest.

Saying No at Work

Saying no at work is a bit different from saying no to your children. Relationships with co-workers are typically not as intimate. Be gentle and honest. Don’t offer false hope by saying “maybe” or “I’ll see what I can do,” unless you mean it. Doing so just drags it out for everyone.

If you know that you can’t participate for whatever reason, don’t be afraid to admit it. It’s better to say no from the beginning than beg off at the end. If you find that you are able to participate in the end, people are usually happy to see an extra pair of hands and will welcome your unexpected surprise.

Depending on your role and schedule, you may be in a position to minimize the number of meetings you attend or the number of committees you sit on. This can give you more time so you don’t have to tell your colleagues “no.” When it comes to meetings, if it’s not essential that you make an appearance ask yourself how the meeting will benefit you. If you can’t come up with a good answer, don’t go.

Do you often find yourself volunteering at work? If you enjoy helping out, that’s great! If you don’t want to help, say so, nicely, of course. Another employee will probably be more than happy to volunteer in your place.

Make a habit of refusing to answer work-related phone calls on the weekends and your days off, unless it’s an emergency. Let people know that you don’t take your work home with you, by mentioning it in your answering machine or voice mail message. You’ll find that most people won’t have difficulty honoring your request.

When you have to say “no,” try to do it in person. If you use e-mail, it’s easy for the recipient to misconstrue what you’re saying and you don’t want that to happen. Work-place tension is never good so take a few extra steps to avoid misunderstandings.

If you are concerned that saying “no” will jeopardize your career, speak with a manager or someone else up your chain of command to explain the situation. Do so as soon as possible, while conversations are still fresh in your mind. Unless what you’re being asked to do is part of your job description, you generally have the right to negotiate about doing something.

Saying No In Real Life

Here are some phrases that you can adapt as you learn to flex your ‘saying no’ muscle. They are simple ways of saying no in a gentle and professional way.

Now is Not a Good Time.

Consider this answer when you get requests for help and your plate is full. This lets people know that you’re willing to help, but you simply don’t have the time. Tell them that you’ll be in contact as soon as your calendar clears. It’s a wonderful way to say “no” without making people feel as though they’re not important.

Let Me Think about It.

This response is more of a “maybe,” than it is anything else. It gives you a chance to think about whether or not you want to participate. When giving this answer, indicate how long it will take you to make up your mind. This helps to prevent repeated requests before you get back with an answer. Most people will wait a while before contacting you again.

I’m Probably Not the Best Person to Help You with This.

If you immediately realize that you don’t have the ability or resources to help, let people know right away. Go a step further and explain the reasons, so they understand that you really don’t have the experience to help. In the event that you know someone who does have the ability or experience, don’t be afraid to pass the information along. If it’s a workable match, both participants will thank you for it.

I’m Sorry, I Can’t.

Each time you can say, “I’m sorry, I can’t,” without hesitation, saying “no, is easier to do. Remember, this is the most direct response you can give to someone who is asking for help.

Don’t convince yourself that being direct will automatically create a barrier between you and that person. Nine times out of 10, you probably be surprised that your answer isn’t as harsh as it seems.

Soften the Blow with a Counter Offer.

Sometimes, when working with clients or customers, a counter offer may be a good option. You don’t say “no” but you are offering something else. If they decline your counter offer, you are left in a good position. You can confidently and easily give them a firm “no” because you already offered a solution, which they rejected.

The Power of Saying No

Saying no won’t be easy at first. For some people, it may never be simple, but you have your own health and well-being to consider. The people who care about you will more than likely understand. When dealing with colleagues or friends, if they don’t understand, it’s probably better to limit your time with them anyway.

Remember, saying no does not make you a bad or selfish woman. On the contrary, it generally makes you a healthier, happier, and more powerful woman. More importantly, saying no doesn’t mean you can’t help those who you really want to help. In the words of Tim Ferriss, “What you don’t do determines what you can do.” It’s totally up to you!

Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

Podcast on setting healthy boundaries

Punch Fear in the Throat Mug

About Allegra Sinclair


Allegra Sinclair is a professional coach and confidence expert. She hates to see women living small and loves to help them change how they show up in the world.