Embracing When and How to Say No

The money question:

When you say yes to something you don’t want to do,

what are you saying no to that you do want to do?

This is the reality of embracing when and how to say no. As a working mom with a crazy ambitious professional drive, I spent a good portion of my marriage being a “yes man” to everyone but my family. As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and I realize now that I let my ego get the better of me and pridefully thought I could do it all and have it all. I felt pressure to say yes to every inquiry, even if I knew my heart wasn’t in it or it wasn’t a great fit. Every time I said yes to one more project, I said no to my children. No to my husband. Every time I committed time to something new, I was taking time from something else. Simply put, there are only so many hours in the day. Learning to embrace when and how to say no can help you identify projects that are a best fit for you AND your family, not you OR your family.

Learning When and How to Say No | Chaos & Kiddos

When should you say no?

1. Identify what you want to say YES to. Deliberately setting your intentions for your life gives you a frame of reference when a new project presents itself. Measure the new project against your standard of living and ask yourself if it adds to that vision or detracts from it. Will you need to sacrifice time and attention to those items you know you want to say yes to? If the answer is yes, and there is not an overwhelming reason why that sacrifice is worth it, then it’s time to say no.

2. Go with your gut. If a new project gives you a throat punch and anxiety instead of excitement and gratitude, it may be time to say no. Even when your brain is pushing you to say yes, your heart knows when you’re taking a misstep. Remember, saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. There’s nothing gained by saying yes to something you heart just isn’t in and then find yourself forced to say no to something that really excited you.

3. Measure up with accountability. Create a set of credentials that each new project is stacked against. A short list of questions and requirements that you commit to sticking with each and every time a new project comes to the table. Share this list with an accountability partner if you don’t trust yourself to abide by it and let them encourage you to embrace when it’s time to take a pass.

Businesswoman performing a balancing act on tightrope against wh

How should you say no?

1. Clearly and with confidence. Many people end up saying yes to projects purely out of fear. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that saying no is confrontational and argumentative. That’s simply not true! You don’t owe the entire planet a yes. If a new project hasn’t stacked up against your accountability credentials, your gut or your life intention, you say no! With clarity and confidence. You’re not doing anything wrong. Don’t tap dance!

2. Gratitude and humility go a long way. It’s easy to take it personally when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do and you feel like they should know that they shouldn’t have asked you. You know what I mean! When someone asks you to discount your product or to put in more hours of work than you can handle…Hey! Don’t you know I’m busy here? Don’t you know I’m working hard and hate being away from my family? Isn’t it obvious?! The answer really is no. They don’t. When a new project comes to your table, it comes with one thing in mind. Itself. Don’t waste time trying to educate people as to the WHY behind your no. They won’t hear it. Instead, extend gratitude and humility with a soft, gracious no.

“Thank you so much for the kind offer! I’d love to have the opportunity to work with you, but my plate is just too full to take on a new project. You deserve my full attention, and I just can’t give that right now! I hope you’ll understand and keep me in mind for future opportunities. I’d love to reconnect in the future when things have settled down a bit!” 

You just said no AND made them feel like a million bucks, even in the face of disappointment.

3. Be honest. Back to that fear thing. We’re afraid that people will make judgements if we say no to something. We should have a much greater fear…We should be terrified of their judgement when they see what we produce when our heart isn’t in it. I’ll use my photography as an example. I learned the hard way when and how to say no in my first two years of business. I said yes to everything – weddings, maternity, newborn, event – anything I could get my hands on. The result? Instant burnout and the quality of my work declined. If a prospect is not a good fit with your vision of the ideal client, consider gently saying no. Saying yes to poor fits sucked my creativity, my motivation and my talent right out of me. Saying yes to my ideal client inspired me, challenged me and produced powerful work that had a huge emotional impact on my client. Be honest.

“I’m so grateful that you inquired about my services! You are fabulous and I wish we had the opportunity to work together, but I’m confident that a better fit is out there for you. This is just a bit off from my area of expertise, so I’m going to send you in love to an industry peer that has a real heart for what you’re trying to accomplish. Tell them I sent you and they’ll be sure to take great care of you!”

You just said no AND showed value, love and interest in what’s important and best for your prospect.

Caring Parents Teaching Their Children How To Use A Computer

FAMILY FIRST. A successful business isn’t worth much if it takes you away from your family. A successful business is one that challenges you, inspires you and pushes you to aim higher and accomplish great things WITH the love and support of your family. If any part of your business succeeds at the expense of your family, you’re probably saying “yes” a lot more than you should. Embrace the “no” and cling to the quality of life that you and your family deserve. When those areas of your life get the attention they deserve, I promise you that you’ll find yourself refreshed and more motivated to grow your business than you could have ever imagined, because you’re doing it in love, not in obligation.

10 Tips to Bed Rest Sanity



  1. says

    OMG! It’s like you are in my head! I just took on a project and I’m about to throw up because I don’t want to do it but I HAVE to see it through. I am copying and pasting your responses of how to direct clients to other businesses. GREAT Advice!

  2. says

    Great post Katy! This is definitely something I should work on more :) But you are absolutely right! You need to know where your own boundaries are before you can expect to communicate those to others.

  3. says

    I so agree with everything you just said. I am the yes girl. I have such a hard time saying no but I am learning. I have gotten myself into tons of trouble with my yes ways. :)

  4. says

    This is wonderful advice! I think as Moms, or parents in general we often try to bite off more than we can chew. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and reevaluate!

  5. says

    Funny that I come across this post, as I have just said yes to MRS. AOK and posting to her new link up, I just recognized your picture as one of the co-hosts to the link up party….. I am saying YES to A Woman’s Quote link party….

    Nice to meet you :)


    I spent years learning what to say yes and no to, and not feel guilty….

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