Just Say No

“Well I think you should do it like this, because then it will look like that and everyone will love it.”

“I think I’m going to stick with the way I originally planned it because that’s how I told them it would be and I’ve already made all the arrangements for it. But thanks for the idea.”


Did you hear that? That’s the sound the word ‘no’ makes. That’s the sound of extra work you don’t need being wiped off your desk. It’s the sound of built up resentment from saying yes to something you don’t want passing you by.

There is power in saying ‘no’.


For a long time, I couldn’t say it. I feared upsetting coworkers. I thought it made me seem like I’m not a team player. Mostly, I just feared the fallout. It was easier to go with the flow. Saying ‘no’ would mean rocking the boat, and I didn’t want to deal with what came next – being challenged.

The truth is, while those are rational concerns, none of them result in a happier work environment, or a more productive me.

I’m not talking about a co-worker who occasionally offers a suggestion here or there in an effort to help you shine brighter, or assist in a better outcome for the team or company. If you are saying ‘no’ to this person all the time, maybe it’s time to take a step back and consider if a team environment is really right for you.

Just Say No

No, I’m talking about the controlling colleague who tells you how you should do *everything* differently. The one who wants the credit for the job you were hired to do. This is the co-worker who steps in when your plans are near completion and wants them all to look how he or she envisions, completely disregarding what you’ve accomplished up to that point. Did I mention it’s your job?

When you don’t want to seem argumentative, saying ‘no’ can be a totally foreign concept, but here are a few tips I have put into practice:

  1. Listen to the whole proposition. Even if you think it’s crazy. Even if you know half way through it makes no sense, hear the person out. Some people need a captive audience, and when you take the time to genuinely listen to what they have to say, it sets the stage for peaceful communication.
  2. Frame your response carefully. ‘No’ is a small, but powerful word that has the ability to sound like a slamming door in your face. It’s how you wrap it that matters. Frame your ‘no’ with all the positive reasons you are doing this particular task in the awesome way you are. The more reasons you can think of, the better.
  3. End with gratitude. It could be the dumbest idea you’ve ever heard of. It could mean throwing away everything you spent months working on, and starting from scratch. It might cost more money and have a less fruitful outcome. You’re probably not going to be grateful for the idea. That’s ok. Say thank you anyway. Ending your nicely wrapped ‘no’ graciously is like the bow on a present. It just gives it a little something extra. No matter how annoying the person is, or how controlling they act, saying thank you will make them feel like they matter. It also helps diffuse any anger on their part at not having their idea come to life. A ‘thank you’ goes a long way.

Using ‘no’ in the work place, with all the politics, and office dynamics, and outrageous personalities can definitely take some time and practice to master. But remember, with every ‘no’ you are saying ‘yes’ to something else – yes to less work, yes to less stress, yes to seeing your ideas through. Think of it as the present you give yourself, because after all, you were hired to do this job. You are strong and capable. And there is power in your ‘no’.


  1. It took me years and lots of frustration to learn how to say no at work. So many people need to read this and remind themselves that it’s okay.

  2. Sometimes, well….not sometimes, almost every time. It`s so hard to say no. Because you don`t want to let the person down, even if it`s not healthy for your own mental state.

    I`m one of those people, I hate to say no. Because once I do, I think people won`t like me. So gullible. But, just recently, I learnt there is so much freedom in that magic word. Just say no. Be free 🙂

    • I used to feel the exact same way, Sidney. Or I would feel like I would get in trouble for speaking up, but the truth is, I’m causing myself more harm by not saying something. You’re right about the freedom. It’s a great feeling!

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