Say No to Others and Yes! To Yourself

No = Yes!

Making others happy is a wonderful quality, but when it comes at your own expense, it’s no longer such a positive characteristic. Arguably, the most common way to be a people-pleaser is to instantly say, “yes” when someone asks something of us.

“Can you come in an hour early tomorrow?” YES!

“Want to meet for coffee this week?” YES!

“Can you bring an appetizer, too?” YES!”

“Will you be the point-person for this project?” YES!

While all of these requests for your time and energy seem innocent and minuscule, they add up and drain your energy. I’m not trying to turn you into a grinch or make you appear selfish! Learning to decipher when to say no an how to do it politely is a life skill that will put you in charge of your time, giving you more energy and opening up space in your life for more things that matter!

How do you determine what gets a “yes” and what needs a “no”?

Set your boundaries beforehand
 We say “yes” when we’re caught off guard and don’t have a clear limits. Give it thought now, even making a list, of what deserves your time and attention. This way, when you are asked a favor you can quickly think of your criteria.

Do not respond immediately.
It’s easy to blurt out an answer, but if someone is asking something of you, you have every right to mull it over. Regardless of if you have your answer at that time, set the precedent of responding later (even an hour!) so you don’t feel the expectation of an immediate response. Simply saying, “Let me check my schedule and get back to you”, will suffice.

Make a checklist of criteria.
Just as I mentioned before, you need to know your boundaries ahead of time. But what are those boundaries and how do you see if the request aligns with your criteria? Make a list of your top priorities. Ignore what you think they “should” be, and focus on what truly drives your day. It could be; career, spouse, friends, kids, reading, working out, etc. If someone asks you to stay late and you know it will cut into your bedtime story time with your child which is a top priority, it’s likely this can get a “no”.

But what about conflicting priorities? Many people will list “career” and “child” which often fight for your time. Take yourself through a few questions:

Is this completely necessary?
Does this have to happen NOW?
Am I the only one who can do this?
Does this add value to my life?

This may seem like a lot of steps that require a lot of thought, but don’t worry! The more you practice asking yourself these questions, the easier and quicker it will become to analyze and come to a conclusion. It will soon become second nature to compare the “yes” and “no” response and won’t require the internal struggle you feel when just starting out!

How do you say “no” politely and with confidence?
You have your answer, but don’t want to spoil relationships or come off as wishy-washy.

Remember your goals.
When making any goal, come back to your why. Remind yourself that you’re saying “no” to this request because it detracts from your bigger goal. Maybe you’re training for a race that’s been on your calendar for 3 months, and coming in on Saturday means you cannot go to your group training. Keep that race in the forefront of your mind when declining the request.

Be concise and polite.
When we’re uncomfortable, we ramble. We feel we need a reason to say “no” other than “this doesn’t work for me now”, and give a million little reasons – real or not – why we can’t. There’s no need for this. Be concise and polite in your, “no”, and move on. A simple, “thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not able to take this on at the moment” will do.

Give an alternative.
If you feel you’re leaving someone in the lurch, briefly suggest an alternative or a start toward a solution. Whether suggesting a person or a direction, you can be helpful without taking on the responsibility. “I can’t help with that, but here’s a website I find useful!”, or, “I’m not the best at proofreading, try Mary, she always catches my mistakes!”

 You’re going for this:

Not this:

 There you have it! How to determine what gets a “no”, what gets a “yes” and how to handle saying no without being a curmudgeon. It takes time to get comfortable with telling people – especially those you care about – that you cannot do something. But the more honest you are with yourself and your time, the easier it gets, and the more people respect your time and what they ask of you. Good luck out there and enjoy your newfound freedom!

Looking for a positive way to spend your me-time? Check out my e-book Positivity Through Creativity for 52 short creative projects designed to reconnect you with your best self! Click here and start your first project today!


  1. A great book with more advice on this topic is “The Power of a Positive No” by William Ury. Definitely helped me set boundaries and priorities and gain excellent work/life balance.

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