Don't miss our 2024 event! We'll be in Fort Worth, TX from November 11-13. Register early and save.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Saying No

Get tips on how to become more comfortable saying no and learn why it’s important for your work and mental health in this article by coach Sandy Aquino.


Sandy Aquino


Early in my career, when I was trying to make a name for myself, I burned the candle at both ends. I stayed up all hours of the night to get work done. I was so driven by a blind passion for climbing the corporate ladder that I felt like I could do anything. 


I felt invincible…until I didn’t.


One day, I sobbed alone in the shower. The next day, I sat in the office parking lot, giving myself a pep talk just to walk through the doors. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and irritable. My mental health withered away. I was ready to throw it all away and quit. 


I was no good to anyone in this state. I could feel my team reacting differently to me. People began asking me if I was okay. My performance was slipping. I simply did not have the mental or physical fortitude to do all the things I had to do. 


My cup was officially empty. I had burned out. 


The pressure to say yes to everything as a new manager is real, especially if you’re a people pleaser. You want to make a good impression and prove yourself in your new role. 


As women, we tend to see ourselves as multi-taskers. We’ve been conditioned our whole lives to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others. We take on too much and overcommit. Then, we’re somehow surprised when it all comes to a head and manifests in uncomfortable ways. 


We might lose our patience and snap at someone. We might feel resentful or become jealous of those who seemingly skate through their day and leave the office on time. We might see a negative impact on our performance.


How can you prevent this? Get comfortable saying no.


Make one simple habit change now to save yourself years of grief and wasted time. Stay highly productive, fully engaged, and on top of your game with one tiny, but all-powerful word—no.


Saying no is not everyone's strong suit. If it's difficult for you, ease yourself into it. Start small. 


If saying no is hard for you, try this.


Try the no sandwich. Start with a compliment. Follow it with a gentle “no”. Then, finish with a positive. 


Here are 5 examples: 

1. “I'm honored that you would think of me. I'm not taking on any new projects right now, but please keep me in mind for the next time.”

2. “That sounds amazing! I wish I could help, but I'm already stretched too thin as it is, and I wouldn't want to let you down. I'm super excited for you, though!”

3. “Sounds like a pretty cool idea. I can't right now. Maybe next time. Thanks for thinking of me.”

4. “Thanks for asking, but I'll have to pass this time. I appreciate you reaching out.”

5. “Sounds like it's going to be super fun. I won't be able to attend this time, but have a great time and take lots of photos so I can see what I missed!”


These won't get you off the hook if the request is coming from your boss, but they can help you fend off those optional projects, busy work, committees, events, and parties that can overwhelm you when you say yes to everything.


Sometimes, the best thing to do is to NOT answer right away. 


Take a moment to prevent yourself from saying yes out of obligation or agreeing to do something you don't want to do. Ask if you can get back to them. 


Be sure to actually respond to them though; blowing people off is a terrible idea and bad for your reputation. 


Answer them later using a pre-scripted “no” response you have saved using text, IM, email, or whichever method is most comfortable for you to decline their invitation or request. 


Learn to say no to the wrong things so you are free to say YES to the right things.


You have to make space to receive the abundance you deserve. Learning to say no will put you back in control and on the path to better work-life balance. It will get you out of the office on time and benefit your mental health. 


Remember, only you are responsible for protecting your peace. Learning to say no is just the first step.


If you like this content, I invite you to join my private Facebook group for women in leadership. I go live inside the group, drop training videos, and connect with my community of seriously amazing women.