It’s Okay to Say No

I’m sure you’ve heard the proverb, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Varying forms of this quote have been attributed to Elbert Hubbard, Lucille Ball, and even Benjamin Franklin. Regardless of who uttered those words first, the saying is true. It’s based on the fact that busy people know better how to manage our time, when in truth we are often busy because we can’t (or don’t want to) say no.

Countless books, TED Talks, and YouTube videos about saying no exist out in the world. After I wrote this blog, I went back and Googled “The art of saying no” just for fun, and I received 1.4 billion hits. Clearly, we are not alone in our struggle to say no.


What’s All the Fuss About?


No. It’s a simple word really, and only a two-letter one at that. Why does saying no hold so much weight over us? Why does saying no bring on so much guilt at the mere thought of uttering the word? Why does saying no make us so uncomfortable? And why do we say yes when we really want to say no?



The Points

  • We were conditioned from childhood to be nice, and we obeyed in an effort to please others. Somewhere along the way, nice manners translated to always saying yes.
  • We want to demonstrate our commitment, whether it’s to work, family, friendship, to life, or all the above. We volunteer for one more shift, we take on one more task. If we do it all AND hold ourselves together, other people will admire us.
  • We seek approval from others. We all love to be loved, but we often put others’ objectives above our own. We feel if we say no to someone, they won’t like us anymore, or worse yet, they will be disappointed in us.
  • We want to avoid conflict. We don’t like others to be angry at or critical of us; we don’t want to rock the boat. We avoid saying no to avoid putting ourselves into conflict with others.
  • We feel guilty afterwards. The other day, a friend who can’t drive asked me to take him to the grocery store. I had a work call at the time he needed to go so I had to say no, but I thought about it for days afterwards.



The Counterpoints

  • If I say yes because of the pressure to conform, I am left feeling drained. I know I am a nice person even if I say no.
  • My actions speak for my commitment. Work, friendship, family…if there’s not a balance between give and take or if the request is not in alignment, it’s okay to say no.
  • I’ve been seeking approval from others for most of my life, and it’s been exhausting. When I let go of the desire for approval and say no because that’s what feels right, I’ve found so much more space for my own goals.
  • I’ve learned to face the possibility of conflict. If I ruffle some feathers, it’s okay. Most of the time, the conflict doesn’t even happen. But if conflict does arise, I take a good look at the situation and ask some deeper questions.
  • I’m still working on the feeling of guilt, but with time and practice, the guilt subsides more quickly.
  • If the top five don’t convince you, studies show that saying yes when you want to say no causes burnout, anxiety, stress, and even depression.

Some Tips for Saying No


  • Practice saying no to small things that don’t hold a lot of weight.
  • Take a breath. Give yourself a moment, or even ask for a day. “Let me get back to you” saves you from the automatic yes and buys you some time to get comfortable with saying no.
  • Have some phrases ready: I’m sorry but I can’t fit this in; I have another commitment; it sounds lovely, but no thank you.
  • Here’s the important part: as soon as you say no, don’t keep talking and making excuses. You may find that you talk yourself right back into saying yes.

The Slow Yes

Of course it’s okay to say yes. If you genuinely want to help AND you have the time AND it’s in alignment with where you are going. Say yes to things that truly excite you. Say yes to friends, family, and co-workers where there is a positive energy exchange.

Just remember, we all have a right to say no. As you find your own balance of saying yes and no, others will start to recognize and respect your boundaries.

Even business magnate and philanthropist, Warren Buffett, encourages you to hit the pause button:

“We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no.'”

If you need help with the slow yes, let’s connect with a free . Don’t forget to take advantage of the and 50% off your first private or session.

Love and light,