Say yes to success by saying no.

Posted by on Feb 15, 2010 in Career Advice | 10 comments

I used to think that my employer and co-workers liked me best when I was agreeable. Volunteering or agreeing to take on new tasks and responsibilities was met with a positive response, and for a while I tried to be everything for everyone. I enjoyed being helpful and learning new skills, and I was usually thrilled to work on a special project or help a co-worker meet a deadline. In the end, however, I was burned out, over-stressed and resentful. Like everything else in life, my work-life needed balance, and I needed to balance saying yes with saying no.

Once I realized I needed to say no, I found it difficult to change my ways, and my co-workers were resistant to the change. They had come to depend on me as their go-to gal, and they were confused and frustrated when I suggested they follow the steps in the manual to clear a paper jam or adjust the settings on the copier.

Though it was challenging to change my behavior, it became easier to say no. I found that I accomplished more, and met all of my deadlines, when saying no appropriately. I felt less stressed and exhausted at the end of day, and, surprisingly, my co-workers valued and respected me- even when I said no.

Here’s what I have learned about saying no:

1) “No” is a complete sentence.
It is not necessary to justify or excuse saying no, though it is often tempting to do so.

2) “No” is self-loving word.
Saying no allows me to take care of myself. I am better equipped to do my work well when I say no appropriately.

3) “No” says yes to my responsibilities, my success, and myself.

4) Say “no” and mean it.
If necessary I can take time to make my decision to say no. It is appropriate to respond to a request by saying, “let me get back to you”, or “I’ll think about it”.

5) “No” is not the end.
I may be able to help in some other way, or I may be able to help with original request once I have completed my own work.

6) Saying no appropriately includes asking, “does this person need my help or want my help?”
If someone is asking me for something they can do for themselves, I may not really be helping anyone by agreeing to take on their responsibilities.

7) Saying “no” appropriately means I am honestly unable or unwilling to agree to a request.

Throughout my career I learned that I do my best work when I practice good time management, prioritize, and focus on my work and my responsibilities first. It is difficult to meet my goals, and my supervisor’s goals for me, when my focus is scattered and my day is consistently interrupted by unnecessary requests. In some situations I may be able to do all of my own work and agree to all requests being made of me, but this is not always the case and I have more to gain in saying no than saying yes.


  1. Chrysta, I seen your comment in another article I read about saying no, and followed it to your blog. I think yours is better written and thought out. It truly is hard to get over the initial guilt in saying no, but after a few times of saying no.. it slowly diminishes. It’s always been hard for me to say no, but I have to because it’s not my responsibility to fix others problems or needs. I have my own priorities to take care of. Thanks for your insight and words of wisdom! Well done! ~Cija

    • Thanks so much for your awesome comment, Cija!

      I, too, had trouble getting over the guilt of saying no in the beginning and I agree it gets easier with time. I love your insight that it’s not your responsibility to fix other people’s problems- this is so true!

      Have a grateful day!


  2. We got to say ‘no’ because at home, at work, at life we have our own ideologies and decisions and we are bound to be ourselves. We are here to be ourselves, do the best of our jobs and just go win! ‘NO’ is a way of telling ‘YES’ to yourself self, your job, your time, your family, your fun..!

    • Thank you for another inspiring comment, Jaky! I know at least I am here to be myself, and it my job to honor my commitment to my own happiness first. When I do this, I can consider if I have the time and energy to commit to others. Being honest and caring with myself allows me to be reliable, open, compassionate and helpful to others.

      Have a grateful day!


  3. Hi Chrysta,

    You’ve made some great points about what “saying no” means, most people got it all wrong.

    Some think that it is a way to be mean or disrespectful, other people think it is to “direct” to be at the face of that person…

    In reality, there’s nothing wrong with saying no. However, we get that feeling sometimes when we deny a request to someone. WE ALL HAVE THAT at the beginning.

    But when we say no couple of times, we’ll get over it. This feeling triggers “unproductively,” and if we are in the middle of something important, it can send us off track!

    Thanks for sharing again!

    By the way, I got reminded of an article that I’ve written, different “lines” or ways of ‘saying no.’ It is good for considering and practice:

    Chris D.

    • Thank you for your comments, Chris! I look forward to reading your article.

      I absolutely agree that many people feel saying no is mean or rude or lets someone down.I think what really lets someone down is agree to do something and then not following through because we’re stretched too thin or simply can’t comply with the request for whatever reason.

      Have a grateful day!


  4. Great article Chrysta. Your article touches upon common excuses people have to say “no” – that is amazing!

    • Thank you for sharing your voice, Ravi.

      I find changing a behavior requires looking at the motives behind that behavior. When I objectively consider my motives, I am less likely to repeat the behavior I want to change because I am free to consider the motives and values I want to live by instead!



  5. Chrysta, aloha. This is something that needed to be said. Too many people don’t realize the importance of No. Saying Yes to everything is a disservice to yourself and to the other people involved in various projects.

    And, of course, “No” is a complete sentence fits in perfectly with Don’t Complain; Don’t Explain.

    What a great list. Off to share it with my friends on twitter. Aloha. Janet

    • Thank you, Janet! Worlds of opportunity and joy opened up for me when I learned to say “no”. One of the biggest challenges for me in learning to say “no” was overcoming the idea that I’m doing someone a disservice by saying “no”. I have come to realize that sometimes saying “no” shows respect and opportunity to someone else. I show respect by being honest about what I can and can’t do and I give opportunity by allowing the requester to either brainstorm other ideas and find their own solution, or perhaps by guiding them to someone else who can help them. Another benefit is being a living example of boundaries and respect. Who knew the word “no” could be so loving and free?


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