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The Freedom of Saying "No"

We live in a fast paced world and often we believe that the way to get ahead is to take on more and more. The price we pay for doing "more" or too much is feeling overwhelmed and out of balance. "NO" is just a simple two letter word. Yet it is often the hardest word to say. The challenge is to set limits and boundaries for ourselves which requires us to learn how to say "no". Why is this so difficult? Some of the reasons we may have trouble saying "no," are because we want to be liked, may be afraid that others would get angry or upset, or perhaps we may have been taught to always be agreeable and give others what they want. Women in particular often have been conditioned to say yes to all requests.

Whatever the reason, there are consequences of our inability to say no. We might feel that people are constantly taking advantage of us. We could experience feelings of being overwhelmed, angry, irritable or resentful. Our bodies could be experiencing constant fatigue, tension, headaches or various other aches and pains. Our behaviors with others might be more abrupt, bordering on rude and we probably would be doing less of the things that we enjoy.

One client I worked with was very accommodating and took on every thing she was asked to do at work. She began to notice that she was doing a lot of tasks that really were not her job but rather the responsibility of others. She became resentful and angry but did not know how to get out of the situation.

Another good natured individual was always willing to give a helping hand to her friends, family, colleagues and community. She sat on numerous committees, baked for fundraising events and was seen as someone you could always count on. She enjoyed this picture of herself. However she had less time for herself and her family. She would stay up late to finish all the tasks she had agreed to, didn’t get enough sleep and was impatient with her husband and children. At work she was short tempered with her staff and it actually took her longer to accomplish less.

Not being able to set appropriate boundaries and limits for ourselves can ultimately lead to all kinds of difficulties. It is important to fully understand what is being asked of you, prior to making a decision. If we make assumptions before we have all the facts it can negatively impact our ability to complete a project. Keep all projects manageable, it is less stressful and the outcome is more successful.

So let’s look at some creative ways of say "no".

* "Can I get back to you on that?" This allows you the opportunity to think about whether you actually want to do it."

* "I'm sorry I'm unable to take on any new projects for the next 3-4 weeks."

* "Why don't you ask (name) to do that as I won't be able to get to it."

* "I can't do it right now, why don't you ask me again later and perhaps I'll have time."

* "I can do this part, but you'll have to find someone else to do the rest."

* Just say "no" without any explanation.

Notice the people around you who are able to say "no" and how they say it. Perhaps some of their strategies could work for you. Trying something different takes practice so say no to something every day, so that you begin to get comfortable with the word.

Copyright 2006, Gail Solish. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Gail Solish, MSW, RSW provides Executive/Personal coaching to managers, directors and executives focused on workplace development and relationship management.
Claim your FR-EE e-course"Unleash Your Potential and Increase Productivity and Fulfillment" at or contact Gail at 416-322-0029.

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