Break The Habit of Saying Yes: 5 Tips to Say No

What's on your wish list? Are you thinking who has a wish list? If so, you need to read this. 

Can’t even think of what would make your heart sing? Drop everything and take notes as you read this.

No matter how awesome you are at multi-tasking or how creative you can get with your schedule, there are only so many hours in a day. Without cloning yourself, every time you say yes to something, you are eventually going to have to say no to something else.

Because of the way we are wired, women typically say no to things we perceive as optional. To make matters worse, it’s easy for us to label self-care as optional. We’re in the habit of saying yes to the priorities of others and either saying no to our own priorities or, worse, not even knowing what they are.

It’s exhausting. I’ve been there.  Here’s the secret to change it:

If you want to say yes to something that will make your heart sing, you need to say no to something else.

Did you just get a little queasy? I get it. That passes.

Let me assure you that the world doesn’t stop turning if you say no to something. I was certain it would when I did this for the first time. We’re still all here though. We survived. And you know what? Everyone around me is happier because I am happier.

Here are my very best tips on how to bring more yes into your life by saying no:

1. Prepare: It’s going to feel awkward. Maybe a little scary. Remember the payoff – more yes to things you enjoy and more time and energy right away.

2. Plan: Give yourself a start date. Or pick a day that will be your no-day. Perhaps give yourself a no-quota; you’ll say no X number of times in a week.   

3. Practice: No doesn’t have to be rude. In fact, it’s not rude. Here are some of my go-to no statements:

  • No thank you.
  • That doesn’t work for me.
  • No, I can’t do that, but I would like to do this.
  • I have other plans. (Hint:  I use this one even if my plans are to binge-watch my favorite show while wearing sweats and eating chips.)

You can have those or come up with your own but say them out loud. To yourself. To the mirror. In your car. Make the words feel natural.

4. Pause: This is the simplest trick of all. You are allowed not to answer immediately. Always. Again, this takes practice. In person or on the phone, you can say you need to think about it. You deserve to say I need some time to consider this.  You can say you need to check your schedule/with your partner/spouse/co-worker… etc.  You don’t have to respond to a text or email right away either.  Make your choices with intention. 

5. Power: I have determined that the biggest trick to being successful at this is to own your no. By that, I mean don’t defend it. Just no. That’s fine. It’s a complete sentence all by itself.  

The amazing thing you’ll notice is there is not a shortage of opportunities to say no.  Once you get into the rhythm of it, you may even feel a little shocked at what people ask you to do.

Not everyone around you will love your new skill right away.  That’s OK.  They will most likely come to really enjoy the new more relaxed and peaceful you.  The you that gets to spend more time doing things that make your heart sing.

So, get started on that wish list.  You deserve it. 

To learn more about Jennifer Embery and her work, visit

11/26/2018 8:00:00 AM
Jennifer Embery
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After 20+ years as a leader in corporate America, Jennifer Embery made the transition to her life on purpose. She is a speaker, life coach, and writer who helps women over 40 determine what they want to do and how to do it. For more info visit
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I learned to say “no” at age 30. I had 16 month old and newborn. I had been handling wedding arrangements and receptions for our church. I dabbled in art and when the church wanted a new letterhead design for the stationary, the pastor asked me to do it. I did my best during a stressful time. It was not perfect and the pastor brought it back to my house one afternoon for me to do over while he waited. My kids were crying, I had to make supper and had a migraine, but finally gave him an acceptable design. The next week I resigned from all my church chores and within six months left that church. I learned that in most congregations, those that cannot say “no” end up doing all the work,
Posted by Shirley
I love this article, Jennifer! So many people need to read this right now (including myself) and know that saying no can be an important self-care practice. Thank you!
Posted by Jenn Ryan

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