After I had my second child, I wanted to show my boss I could handle anything. I said ‘yes’ to coming back to work too soon and working the overnight shift! I was so tired, I fell down the stairs holding my baby—she spent eight weeks in a body cast. She’s fine now, but that was an excruciating price to pay for not being able to say ‘no’. Since then, I’ve trusted that I’m good enough and saying ‘no’ won’t hurt my prospects. Actually being direct about what you want—without second-guessing or making excuses—shows you value yourself. Power through awkward moments like these and you’ll get to your ‘yes’.
1. The I don't need that 'no' You find the perfect dress for your friend’s wedding. Then the shop assistant starts insisting you get this belt and those earrings too.
Say: “I do love that, but I’m not going to get it today.” The sales assistant is doing her job—she doesn’t take no personally and you shouldn’t either. You are wasting her time by acting like you’re deliberating or putting something on hold just for show. Say ‘no’, be lovely about it...and leave.
2. The parent trap 'no' Mum and dad invite you on an overseas trip. You only have two weeks’ annual leave left and think this would be an awful way to spend one of them.
Say: “I love you, but I can’t. How about a weekend visit, instead?” Time with you may be more important to them than the plan. Be quick and sweet, and don’t make up a story. They knew when you were lying at age eight; they will know now. PS: don’t get guilted! You’re an adult now!
3. The 'U still up?' 'no' The guy you really like said, ‘Let’s hang on Saturday’. At 1am, he finally texts, indicating his interest in, ahem, hanging. Nuh-uh.
Say: Text back. ‘No, thanks.’ Wait a beat. Then, ‘But dinner Wednesday?’ If you want more, don’t take less fearing he’ll disappear. Forget about jumping like it’s the PM calling. You’ll save yourself months of pain by being clear with him and sticking to your decision.
4. The weekend work 'no' Your boss asks you to work on Saturday, but your cousin is getting married.
Say: “I’d love to work on that with you, but I have a big family event. What if I stayed late Friday night?” Apologising or giving too much detail seems weak. Be calm and make eye contact, and she’ll respect you for what you’re saying. Follow up with an alternative solution if you can, so everyone wins.
5. The kick-starter 'no' Your friend has a great idea for a vegan-snack-sample-delivery business or wants money for a cause, but you don’t have the cash.
Say: ‘I just contributed to another friend’s charity race, so I’m tapped out. Can I help by making an introduction for you instead?’ Little white lies can be okay. You don’t have to share details about your finances with friends. Value the work you did to earn your money, and only donate to causes that move you.