You don’t need to say “No” to people. You need to say “Yes” to you.

Do you have a hard time saying “No”?

If so, you’re not alone, and one of the most popular requests I get from workshop participants and students is for me to teach them how to say no. 

As a communication PhD, of course I have many tools for you to say no, and I’ll give you a bunch of messaging strategies later in this post. There are many ways to say no in a professional and polite manner.

It’s just that… I really want you to come clean. 

You already know how to say no. 

That’s right. 

You’re an intelligent human being who knows what you want and knows how to get it.

It is not hard to say no.

You just say, “No.”

Or “Thank you, and no.”

So the really fun question is: WHY DO YOU KEEP SAYING YES?

If you really want to make positive changes in your life and feel a whole lot better about the way you fill your calendar, you will dig deep and answer this question. 

Why are you saying YES? Get out your journal. Write the answers down.

OK: Do you have a few reasons laid out? Good. Now tell me: Do you like your reasons for saying yes? If so, then you do not have a problem. You have lots of fun things to do.

If you don’t like your reasons for saying yes, then it’s personal growth time. Bravery time. Courage time. Time to face up to the song and dance you’re performing.

Why are you saying yes when you want to say no? Do you think it will make people like you? People liking you is totally out of your control. Do you think other people’s needs are more important than your own? Your needs are just as important as others’ needs. Are you making sacrifices you don’t want to make? Why would you do that? Are you disrespecting yourself and your time? Why?

These are challenging questions that will lead you to listen to your heart. It’s time to honor yourself and the gift of your one precious life.

Your calendar is a reflection of how you value yourself and your time.

Most weeks, I look at my calendar and think, “Yay!” because I like everything on it. I put all the appointments there by choice.

Do you like what you’re choosing to do?

Yay! Good for you. And if not…

Good news! Every day, change is always possible. It’s one word away.

So, for those of you who still want those “NO” tools, here they are:


  1. Articulate your focus and values (both are your choice):
    1. “Right now, I’m focusing on women’s leadership issues, so this project is outside my expertise and I respectfully need to decline your offer.”
  2. State a company (legit) or personal policy (make these up, as many as you want):
    1. “Since this project doesn’t fall under my current job description, I need to adhere to company rules and decline.”
    1. “Our family has designated Thursday night as family night, so I don’t schedule work events that evening.”
  3. Clarify the purpose of the request and see if YOU are really needed:
    1. “I understand you want someone to network with our vendors. Several other staff members can fulfill that purpose since I am not available.”
  4. Negotiate priorities:
    1. “My schedule is full, so if I say yes to you, what would you like me to put aside?”
  5. Offer another resource/ what you can do:
    1. “Although I can’t make it to your event, I can send a donation or I can send over my intern to help you set up.”
  6. Be honest about your emotions without apologizing or saying “unfortunately”: 
    1. “I am afraid of letting you down, yet I can’t do it.”
    1. “I appreciate and respect you, and no.”
  7. Put the request on a 24-hour hold:
    1. “I will need to check my calendar and touch base with my team/family, so I will get back to you in 24 hours.”
  8. Simply say “No.” It is a complete sentence that deserves respect.

Gorgeous, intelligent, amazing reader: You are bright and beautiful and smart. You know how to say no. So, this week, figure out why you are saying yes.

Before you will ever be able to effectively use my tools, you have to acknowledge that the way you are living your life is your choice and your responsibility and your opportunity for joy. Make your calendar an awesome strategic plan leading you to your dreams. Enjoy it.

Loving you out there! Say yes to you. XOX

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