Learning How to Say No

If there’s one thing that is a constant struggle for me, it’s striking a balance between saying yes and no. I don’t know if it’s that I like to say yes… or hate to say no… probably some kind of combination of the two. Part of me feels guilty about telling someone that I can’t do something. Part of me wishes I were– and sometimes thinks I am– superhuman (or at least Hermione with a time turner) and had extra hours in the day. And part of me really just wants people to like me and saying yes feels like an easy solution.
I go through weeks at a time where I’m in a “YES” mode and weeks where I’m better about prioritizing my time and saying no when necessary.
The problem is that there’s always guilt involved. I feel guilty for saying that I don’t have time to grab coffee with someone. But I know that I could make it work if I woke up an hour earlier and cut Teddy’s morning walk in half. I could give up my Saturday and Sunday afternoons to work on an extra project. I could go that event on Thursday, but that would mean going to bed late and feeling groggy Friday morning.
For a long time, I was able to say yes and make it work. The requests were small and I like being able to do something little for people. Now, I feel like it’s getting harder and harder to please everyone and I forget to take care of myself and my personal priorities (spending time with Garrett, going on great walks with Teddy, reading every day, writing in the afternoon, eating and sleeping right, etc.).
A friend forwarded me this newsletter from Danielle Laporte recently. While a million things rang true for me, it was this line that really got to me: “For months, my first waking thought was, ‘Who am I going to have to say no to and disappoint today?'”
I’m doing my best over here to work with growing companies (and the amazing entrepreneurs behind them) as I can… Supporting friends and their own adventures… Answering emails with questions about college or moving to NYC or what prom dress to wear… doing interviews or mini-consulting sessions and meeting with readers for coffee! But the volume is getting to a tipping point where I’ve had to say no more often than I’d like. And that guilt weighs heavily on me. “Who am I going to have to say no to and disappoint today?”

Saying no has not gotten easier for me (I hate it, I really do), but I’ve set up some rules of thumb for myself that has helped me prioritize.
I won’t say no just because I’m afraid.
I won’t say no if I really do have the time.
I won’t say no if I’ve already committed. 
I won’t say no, but I might modify or negotiate the ask.

It’s actually that last one that has been most helpful. It works for now and I’m sure there will be a point in the not-so-distant future where it won’t anymore… but for now it’s golden. I might modify or negotiate the ask. My schedule might not allow me to meet someone for coffee, but I can offer to answer a couple questions over email. I might not be able to host an event, but I can suggest some of my friends who might be interested. I might not know how to help someone, but I can refer them to someone who does. Just because it’s not a “yes,” does not mean that it has to be a complete “no.”
While it may not be a perfect solution, it’s something I’m working on daily. This whole saying yes/no thing is something that I wish I had worked on more when I was younger. Even in high school, I remember overcommitting for no reason other than I wanted to please someone. I didn’t want to disappoint them. I’m having to rewire some of those thoughts in my brain and, gulp, learning how to graciously say no.

Would love to know your tips and strategies for saying “no.” Please share in the comments!!

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I feel the exact same way about saying no! I even wrote an entire post about it. I love your tips and will definitely give them a try especially as I know that I get super stressed with saying yes a lot in college.

Annie Belle

Fiona Heath

Lovely post Carly.
I try to prioritise by what I want to do and what I know will help me in the long run. Equally if I say yes to one thing, will it then pile up into more things and be harder to say no in the future!
I have always admired and respected the honesty of your blog posts. Somedays we have a post like this, others we get great photos of Teddy, it's such a pleasant mix and makes for an amazing blog.
Fiona x Coffee & Confetti

Kate Mitchell

I was completely that person for a very long time. And then I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and then that turned into a severe case of RA, and I realized that if I didn't say no more I would overwork myself to the point where I would be in the hospital and/or completely unable to do anything at all.

Now, I know that you don't deal with a health concern like that, but the principle remains the same. If you don't say no sometimes, you'll end up overworking yourself to the extent that you'll seriously damage your health. If you keep that in mind – that if you don't say no more you may push your body and your health to very bad points – maybe that will make saying no (or not saying yes) easier.

Kirsten Baumhover

I am so glad you wrote about this, it is something I struggle with a great deal! Its nice to know its not just me who has a hard time saying no. Thank you for the great advice as always!

Katelyn Boylan

Carly, I'm glad you wrote about this because it is also something that I struggle with everyday. My mom is constantly telling me that I spread myself too thin. It became so bad this Summer that if I wasn't always doing something, I felt guilty. Your tips that you listed will definitely help me throughout my sophomore year.


I love your little rules of thumb, I think they are great! I might print them out to put up by my desk as a reminder. Thanks for sharing 🙂


Kaitlin Olivero

Fantastic post – I especially love the little list of reminders of why you shouldn't say no and how you can modify. I am going to write these down and post them on my desk! Also, I'm still convinced you are at least a littttle bit superhuman 🙂

Elle Paige & Henry

I love the idea of negotiating or modifying a task. I hadn't thought of taking that approach before. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago in my blog if you are interested in another perspective.

Its definitely one of those situations where I need to practice more of what I preach. I have a lot of exciting things happening in the fall but feel like I may have over committed myself. I will work on trying to modify in the future.



YES, YES, YES! I'm working on a similar post and why it's so important to say no sometimes. Your sanity will thank you 🙂 Good luck finding that healthy balance between those two words: yes and no.

26 and Not Counting

3 Peanuts

I have found through my life that if you have an operating principle or value system to work from it is easier to say no with grace. I have 3 children. I work part time in my own private practice. I am President of an organization. I volunteer at all 3 of my kids schools. I have a very full plate. However, I prioritize my daily activities based on my values—- being a good Christian and community member, being a present Mom and wife, being good at my work. I ask myself if saying yes or no aligns with my core values and how God wants me spending my time. Then it is easy to say no. Saying no gets SOOOOOO much easier as you get older and more comfrotable in your own skin. If you think people ask a lot of you now, wait until you are married and have children and add more to your plate. Practice saying no graciously now. You will need it even more later.


I feel like saying no never should be a bad thing – and you certainly shouldn't have to explain yourself! I know it can be overwhelming, but sometimes saying "no" can be just as rewarding as saying yes. People shouldn't get so upset when someone says no to something just because they will not be getting what they want. Moral of the story: IT'S OK TO SAY NO!

Dana | Pink Champagne Problems


I think personally, that society tries to teach girls from a really young age to be people pleasers, which could honestly be a topic all of its own. Once you confront that unfair notion, and realize that you can't and shouldn't please everyone at the expense of your own sanity, it's really easy to say "no." But it's not always easy to get there.

Jackie G

This is a fabulous post. I too have a really, really hard time to say "no" and I really don't know why! I think a lot of it comes down to the fear of what happens if I do.

Great tips – I will try to keep these in mind 🙂

xo Jackie
Something About That


I love the idea of modifying or negotiating. I think that even though we are totally justified to say no, it's much better (if you can) to come up with something that works for both people!

xo Julie


I absolutely love this, Carly! I'm starting out with a blog and also starting a health coaching business and it definitely can be difficult to say no. But I also love the idea of not saying no because you're afraid. I often find myself doing it and I think I've missed out on a lot of opportunities that way. I resolve to stop that going forward and have you to thank for really pointing it out!


Wow this post came at the exact right time for me. I have the exact same problem! I always feel guilty when I think about letting someone down and saying no to something they ask, even if it is not my responsibility to be taking on the task! It is so hard for me to watch and make sure I am not spreading myself too thin on all the things I say yes to for people. Thank you so much for your tips!

xx Abby

Joel Carter

Learning how to say NO is very important or else in professional world, authorities take improper advantage of workers who can't say NO. Professionals are prepared in the best manner for the professional world and programs like quick and fast degrees online are very important for success