Your Ultimate Guide to Saying No


People (okay women mostly) cringe when you offer up an ultimate guide to saying no. And reaction to the coaching course I’m taking has been interesting too.  People are intrigued by my belief that the tools taught in this course are transformational, but hesitation creeps in when I divulge the name of the course – Playing Big.  I get it!  In fact, I wavered at first because at this stage in my career, I’m not keen to reinvent myself and become a rock star.

But here’s the thing. You know the woman that is smart and insightful? She oozes confidence and capability. She’s got it together. She can tackle anything. She’s trustworthy and reliable. Well, the way you look at that woman? Someone looks at you that way. In fact, many people do.


Founder Tara Mohr explains that Playing Big is about bridging the gap between what we see in you and what you know about yourself.

It’s about moving past self-doubt and creating what you most want to create in any area of your life. It’s not about that old school notion of playing big – more money, more prestige, greed, or fame.

And playing big according to what playing big means to you. It’s about you living with a sense of freedom to express your voice and pursue your aspirations – whatever they may be.


Regrettably, women frequently stifle that voice and set self-imposed barriers that keep them from expanding their potential for success and abundance. One of the biggest barriers might be the inability to say no.

Social psychologist and author Dr. Susan Newman is a leading expert on how harnessing the power of “no” can help you to take your life back.  In ‘The Book of No: 365 Ways to Say it and Mean It – and Stop People-Pleasing Forever’, she reasons that most of us overestimate how much a refusal will disappoint someone. “In reality, most people won’t dwell on your denial – they’ll just move on,” she claims.


Unfortunately, people pleasers and ‘yes’ people often take on too much, can’t deliver, feel guilty about it afterwards and turn into complainers about being too busy. But in reality, entrepreneur Danielle LaPorte correctly philosophizes that “whatever is on your plate got there because you said yes to it.”

Avoiding your boundaries and needs don’t make them go away. Boundaries exist whether we communicate them or not so avoiding your needs don’t make them go away.


Here it is – Your Ultimate Guide to Saying No. If you are saying yes when you mean to say no, these are 5 strategies to change that habit.

  • Gain clarity. Be clear what is being asked of you.  It is perfectly acceptable to ask questions to determine the time commitment.  Will it take more time than stated?
  • Do you want to do this?  If saying no will leave you disappointed, then you may want to organize other commitments to accommodate this opportunity. Another option is to explain that you’re interested but unable to take it on until a future time.
  • Postpone making a decision.  Ask for time to think it over but get back to them quickly. Procrastinating or avoiding won’t help.
  • Know your priorities.  Is this new commitment how you want to spend your time?  Will it take you away from what you need or want to achieve?
  • Don’t try to do everything. Better to shine at a few things than be mediocre at many.


Yes, it’s a lot of work to create strategies to say no but once you get started, it becomes easier. Here are 5 more strategies to say no.

  • Be courteous but firm when saying no.  Don’t apologize.  Be firm and unapologetic about protecting your time.
  • Don’t let yourself be taken for granted.  Stop being nice.  Of course, it’s important to be polite but bottom line is that if you make it easy for people to grab your time, they will continue to do it.
  • Share your priorities. If asked to take on extra work, remind your boss of your priorities and request help in reassessing.  We often feel that we can’t say “no” to the boss because it will make us look weak or incapable.  Yet, it is a professional response that taking on too much diminishes your productivity and jeopardizes other deadlines.
  • Plan better next time. If you absolutely have to say yes, tell the person that you will agree this time, but ask how it can be planned better next time.
  • Practice saying no.  Just say no.  And if they come back and ask again (and they might), say no again.  Reversing your original decision will only cause resentment – on your end.  The other person will be thrilled.


Saying no puts the power back in your hands and helps to set clear boundaries. The bonus is that you will feel less trapped.  After turning down requests, you will find that others move on, you have time for what you want to do and you will stop feeling guilty. 

You got this! So TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS: What’s your biggest struggle in saying no?

I’m Cathy Goddard, the founder of Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, offering customized one-on-one coaching, an award-winning mentor program and innovative online programs. You can learn more about me right here. If you’re looking for leading edge strategies and accountability to build the life and business you want, let’s work together. Explore what that looks like for your unique circumstances.

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