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3 Simple Steps to Saying “No”

I know you’ve heard how important it is to learn to say “no”. Endless articles (including this blog) tell you to do it. The problem is, if you are a people pleaser and a giver – like many women, that is easier said than done. What if I disappoint people? What if they don’t like me? What if I am not the superwoman I seem to be? I have an answer for all of those questions – So what? Your dog will still love you, your cat will still ignore you, and your kids will still need their lunches made. Nothing material or important will change. Except you will have room in your life for the people and experiences you really care about.

What I want you to focus on is just 3 steps to saying “no”.

  1. When asked to do something PAUSE (this is directly from Karen’s book, see below)

  2. If you know in your heart you don’t/can’t do what is being asked – say “no” right then and there. You don’t need any excuses. However, if you still don’t want to ruffle any feathers, you can say, “I am not able to take that on. Thanks for asking and good luck with “fill-in the blank” (the potluck fundraiser, the community garden, filling the board of directors position).

  3. If you really do need some time to consider the commitment, then say “I will think about it and get back to you tomorrow.” This will allow you time for considering in a non-stressful environment.

Quick backstory. What started me thinking about this was two things. One, I was asked to do something and I spent more than too much time figuring out how to say “no”. I should have just said “no”. Once I did, the person I turned down, just said, “Okay, I understand.” That was easy. Also, I recently finished reading a book called “Success with Less: Releasing Obligations & Discovering Joy” by Karen Mangia (full disclosure, she and I went to grad school together. She is an amazing woman, smart and successful). Karen was (and still is) on an upward trajectory in her career. She had a full and interesting life, but was suffering an undiagnosed illness and the combination of work, a busy life and her health issue caused her to understand she couldn’t do it all. She didn’t want to do it all. I am using the steps in her book to start focusing on what is truly important in my life. I haven’t gotten very far in my practice, but I am working on it. I recommend her book as it’s an easy read, lots of very practical things you can do to simplify your life and find more satisfaction from you work, your family, your partner.

Keep the balance. Just say, “no”.


"Believe you can and you're halfway there." - Theodore Roosevelt
"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." - C.S. Lewis

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." - Helen Keller

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