The Power of Saying No (Thank You)

Picture this. It’s Wednesday evening. You’ve worked all day, gone to the grocery store, put food away, made dinner and lunch for tomorrow, done some laundry, and vacuumed…cause you’re a beast and you are awesome! It’s about that time when the phone chimes…then chimes again. You look at your phone and it’s your BFF. She wants you to babysit so she and her partner can have a date night this Saturday. Of course you instantly want to write back, “Why Yes! I’d be thrilled to!” But, are you? Really? Did you take a moment to remember that you haven’t had a quiet night in 3 weeks? Did you remember that you were just telling Karen at the bank that you’re feeling exhausted? Did you ask yourself what you actually wanted for our weekend? What might you be needing?


Let me note something extremely important. I love helping. I love giving of my time. I frequently bake cookies for others, I make personal calls to check in on others going through difficult times, I offer to help with friends kids, I help with yard work and joyfully so. I deeply believe in the gift of time and energy.

AND, I have become a renegade self care woman! It occurred to me within the last two years that I was seriously over-committing myself…at home, work, and with friends. And pardon my language, but I found myself half-assing many things, instead of whole-assing them. One of my values it to do quality work, whatever it may be. Doing sub-par work was not feeling okay.

I began to investigate where this imbalance was coming from. Once I began to get curious and and ask myself honest questions, the answers were clear as a bell. I needed to be doing less. PERIOD! And, if I was to be doing a multitude of things, there needed to be more ME and my needs on that list…vs…the usual, “I can wait on my things” attitude.

Like any big changes in my life, i knew this wouldn’t happen overnight. Step one. Acknowledge that I wanted to make a change. And like another principle in my life, I had to start setting this intention. So, firstly I told my friends and family that I’m doing things differently. This kept me accountable.


OK, Lily, where are you going with this? How am I supposed to implement this? Here goes! Once you have realized that the current mode of over-committing isn’t working, you do have to start staking claim to your time. Part of carving out this time means you have to say the dreaded word that we dislike as children and adults, NO.

Another important note about me, I believe in diplomacy and manners. Big Time! I’m not asking you to start telling ole Karen ,”NO, I won’t watch your snot nose kid?” or “Sorry finance department, I will NOT be getting you that project in on deadline.” We have to be civil. We ought to be kind. We should take the things we have committed to seriously. BUT, don’t take on more than have time for.

When we’re asked to help or commit to something new:

Step one: PAUSE. Don’t respond right away. If it’s a text, it can wait. If it’s in person, request getting back to the person in 24 hours. Even if people are caught of gaurd, they will usually offer you the space, if it’s asked for.

Step Two: Get Curious and Ask Questions, the delightful Brene Brown highlights the value of getting curious about yourself and your story. I suggest her book Rising Strong, in learning further about self love and self care. We often concern ourselves with others thoughts and feelings, and miss our own. Along with her inspiration and some deep mediation, I found the beauty and power of Asking myself, “How am I feeling? Do I actually have time to whole-ass this activity and feel good about it? What do I need right now to be more balanced and healthy?”

Step Three: Respond kindly and honestly. For me, after I examine how I feel and ask myself what I need, and the answer has to be “NO”. This is what I say or write.

So, for Karen and the babysitting request, I might say “At this time, I am not available to help. And I want to thank you for asking me. I appreciate your reaching out. Please feel free to ask again.” I may even offer to put something on the calendar to help babysit another time soon.

For the extra help or project at work: “I hear that you need help. And I need to be honest, I’m feeling like I have a lot going on currently. I’m concerned if I over-commit I may not do my best work.” Obviously work is trickier, and often we cannot turn down more responsibility. But, I encourage you to ask questions and negotiate if applicable. Good boundaries at home and work can prove very helpful in the end…and challenging to start.

Step Four: Block out YOU TIME on your calendar. I have been doing this for 10 years now, and it’s amazing. I look ahead two weeks, and find a day or part of a day with nothing scheduled. In your phone’s calendar or paper calendar (if you’re analog) write in BOLD letters, NO PLANS!!!! So, when you’re at the doctors, or talking to your PTA, or family, and they ask if you’re free next Saturday, and low and behold it saysn “NO PLANS!!!” you politely say, “ Oh, well, looks like I’m not available that day.” If they pry, say you have an appointment. If they push further, heck, white lie. That is your day, your time, and YOU DESERVE IT!

With this new found you time carved out, you may find you feel a bit more rested and refreshed. Thus, you can whole-ass what you love, and be able to carve out time to say YES to friends and family with a joyous and happy heart.

Posted on March 4, 2019 .