7 Ways to Say No

I love saying yes. I love being asked to do some awesome project or task or job because it lets me know the asker thinks I’m fit and capable for the work. That feels great. It is like unsolicited back pats or like a virtual coronation ceremony. And here’s what I discovered…I can feel all those things and NOT do the work simply by saying…wait for it…: No.

Are you catching on? Part of what I’m really saying yes to is the compliments, the affirmation. Instead, when I say “no” it means I want to be saying “yes” to something else–something I’m passionate about (even if it means a nap).

Minnesotans are so super nice. Truly. I also notice that we in the Mid-Coast are overly apologetic. There are lots of apologies happening (not enough from certain people, agreed) but really I hear a lot of “sorry” when I feel the sacredness of that word is getting washed out. I learned early not to apologize unless I was truly sorry. Like deeply sorry. Actually remorseful. Really apologetic. Truly sorrowful.

And somewhere in the history of niceness we Northerners collapsed saying no with apologizing for saying no. Are you really sorry when you say no to a project, volunteer task or job? If you are truly sitting in the place which is “Sorry” maybe saying no isn’t very life-giving and instead you should say yes!

But back to saying no…

When I say “no” to something I get a little buzz because in turn I’m not sorry for what I’m saying yes to. Know what I mean? Does this sound familiar:

Oh, I’m so sorry I can’t do this quick-turn project. My parents are in town and I’m also feeling a little under the weather plus I have this super funky ingrown toenail (ouch!) which needs some serious TLC.

Okay, what? What is happening here? Is it story time? I’m 100% guilty of doing this in the past. I work to not do it anymore (most especially with clients). It just seems to feel better, doesn’t it, to explain why you have to say no. “I can’t because…” “Sorry, I can’t because…” “I’m SO SORRY I have to say no because…”

But does the other person really care? I mean, really? Toenails? Sickness? Parents? What if the REAL reason you are saying no is because that client didn’t treat you well last time or the projects were underpaid or you were undervalued? Well then your toenails and parents excuses are straight up lies. Boo, hiss. No one likes fibbers.

Here are 7 ways to say no that might refresh your commitment palate:

  1. No. My dear, sweet husband taught me that “No.” is a complete sentence and nothing has to come after it. No backstory, no bull, no blahdy blah. Simplicity can be beautiful.
  2. No. Please ask me another time. I love using this when I am asked to do something that I know I would enjoy or be good at but also am realistic about my capacity for more projects and can’t take anything on. It works, too, because often companies have a go-to list for talent so you won’t be forgotten (in fact you could appear in high-demand!).

Read the rest of this post over at CICADA (my writing agency) >>

2 Comments on “7 Ways to Say No

  1. I haven’t read this yet because I’m supposed to be doing something else while Joe is napping (he has bronchitis)….however, I did notice that you used the family photo. It’s cute! I just wish those shadows on the wall weren’t there. Don’t know why I didn’t notice them, but anyway, very cute family…one which we love very much.


  2. Okay, I read it this morning! Nice job with insights on this topic. I didn’t learn to say “no” until my mid-thirties. Could be developmental….or survival!

    Sent from my iPad



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