Saying No Hurts So Good

Straight-backed and attentive, I sit in the trendy conference room chair where I’ve been perched for the last two hours, reviewing slide by meticulous slide of the presentation I revised just yesterday.

She turns to me, the frustratingly perfect new VP who conquered the world at the age of 36 and continues to climb to the top of whatever she deems fit to climb.

“Can you have the revisions done by the end of the day?” she smiles genuinely.

Straight-backed and attentive, I nod.

My brain screams no, but my head nods yes.Saying no makes me smile

My brain scans the long list of other tasks I need to complete, but my fingers move to tap into my iPad the new to-do.

My brain asks why revising the presentation is so urgent, but my lips form the words, “Yes, of course I can finish this before the end of the day. It will be good for us to have a chance to look at it again.”

I know I’m not alone in my tendency to people-please. The tendency to say “yes” before I have the chance to think about what it means for the time I wanted to spend with my son, for the run I’ve been promising myself.

Like many women, saying no comes along

with the all too familiar feeling of guilt,

and the ever-dangerous sense of hyper-responsibility.

When I come face-to-face with the opportunity to say no—to do someone else’s job at the office, take over another weekend for the ex-husband, or squeeze another event into an overly-hectic day—I often allow my tendency to please and be responsible for other people’s actions to take over.

I should pull out the “no” I’ve been practicing so diligently. Just ask my (fellow people pleaser) mother or my best friend who lives 300 miles (but thankfully no more than a phone call) away about the pep talks I give myself, telling myself that I am only responsible for me.

But, do I say “no, not right now;” do I stick to the boundaries I’ve set for myself?

I hope one day I can say yes.

Yes, I will say no. Yes, I will complete my current projects before taking on new ones. Yes, I will stick to my own limits and not overextend myself.

The inability to say no creates more anxiety and causes less productivity.

Completing tasks you can do well without sacrificing your own comfort level makes for more quality work with less unnecessary attitude.

Let’s be honest: When you say yes to something like the request to edit a PowerPoint for the third time in two days when you have meetings back-to-back until 5 p.m., the incredulous “excuse me” shows on your face even if you don’t allow it to cross your lips.

A simple, “No, but I will have it on your desk tomorrow before lunch,” would suffice.

First published at 
6 Responses to “Saying No Hurts So Good”
  1. James says:

    I find myself asking where does balance come in? Finding a way to say “no” is empowering.

  2. James says:

    wait. I wasn’t done…
    I find myself asking where does balance come in? Finding a way to say “no” is empowering, but couldn’t there be those in your life that take precedence over others? That would be for each person to decide for themselves of course.

    • James,

      Empowering yourself is what it’s all about. I think where you have to draw the line is when you say yes or accomodate someone for the other person’s benefit, because you expect the other person to do something in return, or want to control the situation.

      If you are saying yes or being accomodating and you are truly keeping your own motivations at the core of your actions, then of course there are people who deserve your nurturing and caring.

      Thanks for writing!


  3. Autumn Rose says:

    This book was very helpful to me in learning to set boundaries:

    • I agree, Autum. Cloud and Townsend have a great perspective on this topic. I will add it to the list of resources. Thank you! Also, feel free to email me with any of your experiences, or plan to write a guest blog on this topic. I’m seeking lots of different voices to be added to the support space at Attention Anonymous. Also, find the group on Facebook ( and Twitter #attnanon…to get regular doses of encouragement to set boundaries and be healthy. Let me know where I can read more about you!

      Have a great weekend!


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  1. […] remember the date. May 2, 2012. I put the site up live. The first post “Saying No Hurts So Good” was a way for me to express what I believed the focus of my blog to be–setting limits, […]

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