Are you one of those people who never says no, or doesn’t know how to? I recently had this conversation with one of my clients who wanted to determine when it’s appropriate to say no and when saying yes is better. That’s right, just because it is an ‘opportunity’ doesn’t mean you should always say yes to it.

My client shared that saying no has certain connotations for them. She broke it down into three areas:

  • I’m afraid I will be perceived as weak. I’m worried that others will think that I can’t just suck it up and do it, or can’t find the inner strength to commit.
  • I don’t like disappointing someone, and if I say no, I feel like that is what I’m doing.
  • I’m also afraid that I’ll miss a really good opportunity. What if saying no is a mistake?

These are all very common thought patterns that I’ve heard over the years with many clients. We get stuck in these patterns, say yes to too many things, and then wonder why we are stressed and feel unappreciated.

We addressed each of these areas and she came up with strategies to break these patterns.


            1-Instead of being perceived as weak, she is feeling strong by setting clear boundaries and having criteria for when she says yes to an opportunity.


Have you ever dealt with someone with strong boundaries? They are people who are very clear about what they will do and what they won’t do, and they communicate it to you. You know where they stand. I just experienced this last week with the new nail technician I visited for the first time in Philadelphia. She was very clear with me about her services. If I am more than 5 minutes late, then she does not provide the neck message at the end of the appointment, because it is not fair to her other clients. I appreciated her boundary, because I may be one of those clients waiting due to someone’s tardiness. I certainly did not perceive her as weak.


In addition, having clear criteria for saying yes can simplify the process. For example,


I will say yes when:


It contributes to my professional goals, AND

fits into my life without throwing me out of balance, AND

is something I can be excited about.


  2-Instead of thinking she’s disappointing someone, she’s going to focus on how this can be an opportunity for someone else.


We all know the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the work is done by twenty percent of the people. So those twenty percent are asked to do A LOT! And usually they are also the ones that have problems saying no to opportunities. I’m sure you’ve been in situations where the same people volunteer, lead or speak up over and over again.


Sometimes we need to give others the space to step in. We keep volunteering and feeling stressed about it, complaining that no one else is stepping up, but have we really given anyone the opportunity? Try saying no, just once, and see if someone else jumps in.


  3-Instead of being fearful that she’ll miss an opportunity, she has the faith that the right opportunities come at the right time, and that opportunities are abundant.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a lot of opportunities in my life and professional career. I haven’t acted on all of them, but they continue to keep popping up. Growth is a process and there are lots of ways to accelerate or support your development. There is no right or wrong way here. There is just the path that you choose.


So I hope you make a choice to say YES when the time is right, using your own criteria.


All is well in Philadelphia!