How I Say No to Pretty Much Everything like a Total Boss

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Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Total Wireless through their partnership with POPSUGAR. While I was compensated to write a post about Total Wireless, all opinions are my own.

I've been trying to read this Year of Yes book, and I just can't get on board with it at all. I was chatting with a friend over coffee the other day, talking about how easy it is to get bombarded with life, become completely overwhelmed and burn out. Like many parents, my phone is a persistent nightmare zone of requests from school, church, our community groups and work. If I said yes to everything, I would lose my dang mind!

How I say No “You're so good at saying no, though,” my friend interjected. “It's basically your superpower.”

I laughed and shrugged and made some comment about sanity and self-preservation. Thinking about it later, though, it dawned on me that this is why I have a problem with the book. It simply doesn't jive with my personality.

I'm NOT afraid of saying yes to things. I know that ‘yes' is an anxiety-inducing word for many people. New things can be scary for some. I, however, am definitely not one of those people! I thrive on thrills and change and unfamiliar experiences. For me, there is absolutely no fear involved in yes. People cheer for the yes-sayers. ‘Yes' is the choice with the quickest rewards. Yes is the easy, most acceptable thing to do.

Saying no, on the other hand, means that somebody isn't getting what they want. Expectations are being reset. Opportunities are being missed in favor of other priorities. No is scary because it almost always comes with perceived backlash. Yet ‘no' has become my go-to and I'm a happier person as a result. After years of being groomed to say yes, I'm immensely proud of the no-saying abilities that I've developed as an adult.

Do you spend too much time fulfilling ‘yes' obligations that should have been ‘nos' in retrospect? I was there once, too. Here's how I turned it around.

How to say no and MEAN it without feeling guilty or fearing backlash

Accountability is key. There have been a couple times in my life when I've had to make tough choices to end relationships with people who were, frankly, sucking the life out of me. That was hard. What I've found, though, is that God has sent incredible people to fill those shoes! This is the biggest takeaway about saying no to anything: the fear of emptiness is powerful. I promise you that those spaces will ultimately be filled with better things.

In my case, I've been buoyed up by a powerful and supportive group of friends who back me when I make a decision. One of the first professional leaders I met in the blogging community, Tiffany Romero, gave me words of advice that I've held dearly in my heart for years. “It it's not a hell yes,” she insists, “it's a no.” Now, if I'm ever feeling lost or doubting myself, I simply turn to one of the many strong people in my life and ask them to help keep me accountable. I do the same for others in return. I have relatives, friends, blog readers and coworkers who email me on a daily basis looking for suggestions about how to approach various opportunities. I always encourage them to go with their gut, only accept things that are empowering for them, and never make decisions out of fear.

Prioritizing family

Know your own bottom line. What are you working for? What do you want out of life? For me, it's family. I am trying to build a wonderful life for my children so that we can leave a positive legacy in this world. That means they need downtime for creative thinking and problem solving and really learning who they are as people outside of nonstop activities and events. They also need a mother who is fulfilled and, ideally, not totally exhausted from being spread too thin. Turning down some opportunities can help you strengthen the confidence you have in your relationships or other roles so you feel empowered in making the right decisions.

How I say No

Practice saying no. Start small. Turn down something that's rather meaningless to you, anyway. Stand your ground against a pushy salesman who's trying to monopolize your time. Erase “sorry, but…” and “I can't because…” from your vocabulary. No means that the particular thing you're being presented with is not a fit. You can be polite and express appreciation for the opportunity, but there is no reason to apologize or make excuses.

I've realized that as a woman, I was encouraged throughout my upbringing to make other people happy and comfortable. I actually had a boss once tell me that my purpose in a meeting was to “soften his bold presence” and “put other people at ease.” For me, that was a major turning point. I started noticing the inherent sexism that has always made me lean towards yes when I've wanted to say no. What about MY bold presence? What about putting MYSELF at ease? Isn't that more important than pacifying everyone else?

Assessing personal priorities to make the right choice

Establish personal and financial freedom. That fear of backlash I mentioned before? It's powerful. I hear fellow moms and dads give a whole plethora of reasons for why they cave to things they don't really want to do. “I need to keep the peace with this relative,” they say. Do you, though? Really? Why? “If I turn this gig down, they might not come to me with the next opportunity,” they reason. That last worry is valid. As a business owner, I know the struggle well. It's why I go through my list of expenses on an annual basis and minimize anything unnecessary as well as maximizing investments to make myself feel empowered enough to turn things down – even when it may cost me money.

We've been working with and have been using their Shared Family Plan (four lines on America's largest, most dependable 4G LTE network for only $25 per line, per month, with 25GB of shared data). They also don't require contracts or credit checks, so those are two more things I was able to happily say NO to when I ditched our old provider. That's just one example of how I take control of our financial situation. In the financial arena, details are key. ‘Yeses' here can quickly snowball into unmanageable overhead that makes you feel vulnerable and forced to agree to things that aren't a fit for your life.

Looking at something cool with the kids

Make the yeses meaningful. If I say I'm going to do something, you bet your butt I follow through. And I enjoy every dang second of it! Because I've figured out my priorities, built up the courage to go after them and developed a long-lasting confidence in my ability to make the right choices for myself. Committing to fewer things means that I can be wholly in the moment when I do decide to take an opportunity.

For those of us who aren't used to it, saying ‘no' has a weird initial sting. It's uncomfortable and unfamiliar and downright weird. But the payoff is huge. It's a life lived on your own terms.

Have you struggled with saying no to people?

*The 30-Day cycle for Shared Data Family Plans begins on the day the first line/device is activated. Any line(s)/device(s) activated later in the first 30-Day cycle will receive only the number of days remaining in that cycle.† To get 4G LTE speed where available you must have a 4G LTE capable device and a 4G LTE SIM card. Actual availability, coverage and speed may vary. LTE is a trademark of ETSI. Please refer always to the latest Terms and Conditions of Service at


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