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How to Say No like a Boss and Still be a Lady

As women we get so tripped up in being nice that we don’t consider our own needs. We give automatic yeses to situations that require nos. We agonize over saying no. What will they think? What if they think I’m a b*itch? What if they don’t ask me again? runs through our heads.

How many events have you attended because it’s good networking but you had no desire to be there? How many times did you agree to be on a committee because you were asked but didn’t want to? How many playdates and birthday parties have you attended that you didn’t want to?

Of course life would be perfect if we could say no to everything we don’t want to do. But that’s not reality. There will always be things that we don’t want to do but still need to be done (dishes, laundry). But imagine cutting out the things you don’t want to do.

Less stress and less resentment = More time for the people and things you love and more happiness.

Take a minute and really think about it. If you could take 30% off your plate right now how would life be and feel different?

Well, you actually can make this a reality. There’s a three-part process to saying no and getting back more time in your life. Acknowledge. Ask. Act.


The first step is to acknowledge your no. Whenever we’re asked to do something that we don’t want to do there’s a brief moment of distaste. Sometimes it yells at us and we ignore it, other times it’s just a whisper of displeasure.

This is your instinct telling you that this is not something that you want to do. Stop ignoring that voice! That’s your instinct/God/a Higher Power speaking to you and helping to guide you. When God is speaking, listen.

In this first step this most important thing to do is listen to your desire to say no. That’s all you have to do for now, just listen.

For the next week pay attention to all of the times that you want to say no. Just make a mental note of:

  • who do you want to say no to?
  • how are you feeling (tired, overwhelmed) before you receive the request to do something?
  • what tasks or things are you saying no to?

You can write it down in a journal or jot down some notes in your phone. Taking stock of it mentally works as well too. The point is to start becoming more aware of the times when you do or agree to things that you don’t want to. For some people that awareness is enough to start saying no! But if you’re like me and many others you may need some more guidance.

Acknowledgement is the first step. Did you acknowledge all of the times that you wanted to say no? Was it surprising how often you wanted to say no to someone or something? Or did you notice that the desire to say no only crept in with certain people or situations?  Now that you have awareness of when you want to say no it’s time for step two. Ask.


You need to ask yourself these 4 Must Ask Questions to move towards Saying No Like a Boss.

1.What’s my first reaction to this question?

Without thinking, just reacting, is your first thought I don’t want to do that? Or is it fear or dread? Nervousness and excitement? What’s the first reaction you have when asked to do something?

  1. How will this help or hurt me?

Sometimes the answers are clear about the ways you’ll be helped or hurt. Othertimes it takes more time to consider. For example I was trying to schedule a meeting with someone interested in our corporate consulting services. I thought I could squeeze in the time to an already full day. But when I asked myself how this will hurt me I paused and realized that accepting that appointment time would cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. I would need to rush from meeting to meeting and then I’d be frazzled and irritated by the time I picked up my kids from school. Asking myself this simple question, how will this help or hurt me, helped me realize that I needed to say no and find another meeting time (which we did!).

  1. What are the consequences of saying no?

There are consequences to all decisions. Some consequences are easier to live with than others. What’s the consequence of saying no now?

  1. If I say yes, can I do so without resentment?

This is a big one. We often say yes and then are stressed and annoyed and bitter becausewe really didn’t want to do it in the first place. The ripple effect is like water dripping on a stone. You don’t notice anything for a while but then you start to see the impact and the damage that happens. Imagine everytime you do something that you don’t want to. When the resentment seeps in who do you take it out on? Who gets your frustrations and irritability? The person who asked you? The people at home? It’s usually the people we love most who bear the brunt of our resentment. Not only does it hurt us but it hurts them and our relationship with them.

Now that you’ve answered these questions it will be easier to know what to do and when to say no. Change is a process and it takes time. We’re in this together so we’ll practice as much as we need to! Now it’s time to take action.


Word-for-Word Ways to Say No Like a Boss 

Here are the actual juicy words to use to tell someone no and still be kind. Sometimes we go to the extreme of  saying no out of anger or with attitude or not saying anything and feeling like a doormat. Now there are definitely times when a no out of anger is necessary. Use that voice that God gave you! But there are plenty of times when you need to say no with kindness and keep it moving. So here’s how.

Rather than agonize over what to say or spending hours journaling about what words to use I’ve created simple phrases that work for almost any situation. Of course you’ll change a word here and there to make it fit for you but 90% of the work is done to make it easier for you.

After reviewing the 4 Must Ask Questions for Saying No use one of these statements to get your no out:

#1 – Honesty – You’re honest about how hard it is for you to say no. This invites compassion (usually!) from the other person and they’ll be more willing to accept your no.

Even though it’s really hard for me to say no to _______________________ I need to. I’ve committed to not biting off more than I can chew this year and I won’t able to do _______________.

#2 – Gratitude – Be grateful that they believe in your ability to help them. Remember that you can be grateful and still say no.

Thank you for asking me to do _____________________. Unfortunately I won’t be able to do it this time. Please ask me again in the future. (*only say the last sentence if it’s true!)

#3 – Resourceful – Help them find someone else to assist them. A way of helping is connecting people to other people and resources that will help them. Be resourceful!

I’m honored that you want me to _______________________ but I don’t have the time to commit to doing it to the best of my abilities. Here are some other people/resources who may be able to help you.

#4 – Straight Up – Sometimes a no is a no with no further explanation needed.

I wish that I could do ________________________ but I can’t. Thanks for asking though!

What if they don’t take no for an answer?

In a perfect world we would say no and people would easily accept it and move on. But in this world some people will push back and keep asking when you’ve already said no.

That’s why we’ve given you different ways of saying no. If you tried #2 (Thank you for asking me to do _____________________. Unfortunately I won’t be able to do it this time. Please ask me again in the future) and they come back to you then it’s time to try #3 (I’m honored that you want me to _______________________ but I don’t have the time to commit to doing it to the best of my abilities. Here are some other people/resources who may be able to help you).

If this is new you may feel uncomfortable or stumble over the words until you get the hang of it. That’s okay. Like anything new it takes practice. But it’s well worth the practice of saying no to what you don’t want so you can start saying yes to what feeds your soul. Let’s Learn. Change. Grow. together!

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