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The Positive Way to Say "NO"

Does “YES", roll out of your mouth too automatically and too often? Have you been having way too many “holy sh@#t…what have I done?” moments, the instant you hear yourself over-committing...again?

How many times has another self-imposed “YES” ultimately led to simmering resentments; then, frustration and exhaustion? With the whole process of working with clueless people, who mean well? Plus, there’s the disgust with yourself, “the good-girl”, smiling at your volunteering team members, but by day’s end you’re snarling at your family when you walk in the door….and they are waiting for you to fix dinner?

And, yet, we say “YES”…..again, and, again.

I know. We don’t want to let “people” down. After all, they thought enough of us…of our skill, talents, and “can-do-ness” to ask us in the first place. We have developed a reputation for being organized and making things happen. We like being in the middle of “what’s going on”. And, if we are being honest with ourselves, there’s some significant marquee value with all this doing of good.


Learning to say “NO” is treacherous territory for dyed-in-the-wool good girls.

Ask me how I know?

Being a “YESSER" for so many years took its toll. I was feeling exhausted more than energized from my volunteer activities. A pivotal moment occurred for me in one of those times that can seem like a nothing-burger on the surface. But when it happened it hit such a raw nerve, I decided it even needed a name. The “Weekend of 14”, as it became known, to me only…set me on a path to find my way to a better “NO”.

The “Weekend of 14” was a while back. Cell phones did not exist for daily use…..answering machines were the way to communicate with multiple messages. Of course, as a YESSER, most days I was at a dead run to flip the switch on the answering machine, the minute I came home to see how many people had called/needed me. This one weekend, I had walked in feeling especially exhausted after helping a friend move; then, unpack; then decorate….hanging draperies and art.


While running a hot, Epsom salts bath to relieve the already aching muscles, I listened to my messages. All 14 of them were from people asking for my “help” with a project they were involved in or to “pick your brain” (aka, "I'd like your expertise for free") about a business idea they were developing. Every message was a different ask. SNAP!

I thought I was out of gas.
But, actually I was on fire.
To live a very different way….
Determined to contribute to the greater good AND my own well-being
at the same time.

The funny thing about making a decision with such bottom-of-the-barrel clarity and determination…..the solution always appears. This time it came via a workshop, created by a therapist friend who was teaching a class on boundaries, to pre-empt upcoming holidays. It involved three simple steps that would become some of the most enduring, valuable life-learning tools. Ever.

I’m hoping you will feel the same way!

First: Look Within. Ask Yourself Questions Creating Compassionate Self-Awareness

1. If I say “NO”, what other important things in my life will I be actually saying “YES” to?

  • a better night’s sleep

  • more quality time with my family

  • time to exercise & focus on my health

  • fit in “me” time to feel grounded & at peace

2. Can I be honest with myself about why I’ve been obsessively saying yes?

  • Is it to mask some pervasive loneliness?

  • Is it to fill in emotional gaps in a significant relationship?

  • Is it to fill the bottomless pit of “not enough-ness”?

3. If I say “NO” what will I really miss out on?

Second: Plan Ahead. For Optimum Self-Care, Create A Comfortable Plan for Saying “NO”

1. Create a sample “NO” you would be comfortable receiving yourself. If someone told you “NO” in the same way, with the same words, how would you feel?

2. Focus on how powerful and positive it will make you feel to speak your truth in this thoughtful way. Then, write the words, creating a sample email and text message. See how it looks and feels to see the words in print. Say them out loud, even. Wrap your brain and heart around the kindness and the clarity they represent coming from you. Obviously, we can't control other people's feelings, but we can be clear about our intention for a kind delivery.

3. Yes, it may feel silly. But, think about it. This is brand new territory for you. It deserves a thoughtful plan, with a well-developed road map before setting out on a new journey. Consider this a script that can make you comfortable and ready when the time comes.

Third: Take Specific Positive Action to Enhance Your Confidence

1. a. Take a deep breath. b. Thank the asker for thinking of you. c. Your new auto-response...”Can I get back to you?

2. a. Show a genuine interest. (if there really is one) b. Ask specific questions about logistics. c. Determine if there's a smaller part you could play. Offer that.

3. If it's a NO”, be clear. A wishy-washy NO can slide into an eventual YES much too easily.

FINALLY, You may think this is weird… but STOP…realize & honor what you have just done. Give yourself a pat on the back for taking yourself off the griddle. You have just reinforced your own self-awareness, self-care, and positive actions by taking tangible steps to live your life and love yourself differently.

After you’ve delivered your own truthful, graceful, powerful, positive NO…. close your eyes….and spend a quiet minute within yourself.

Thank yourself for “being there” FOR YOU.


Tangible Positive Ways to Say NO Powerfully

I’m going to have to say no for now but I’ll let you know if something changes ~

I’m stretched so thin as it is, I wish I had more of me to go around ~

My calendar is already full. ~

What a worthy cause. I’m sorry I can’t participate. ~

When I say YES, I like to know I can give my best efforts. Right now, I can’t be sure of that. ~

You know how much I enjoy being with you. I wish I could. All the best to you. ~

Gosh. Right now, it has to be a NO for me.


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