Headsm full disclosure

Why Saying No is Critical to Your Success


We’re all enlightened and intelligent enough to understand what we have a right to and what we shouldn’t settle for. We feel comfortable declaring things like: No, I will not be treated as a second-class citizen. No, I will not accept unequal pay. No, I will not compromise my morals, ethics or personal boundaries.

But, it’s a tricky thing to say “no” when the stakes aren’t quite so high, when you’re not being bullied, violated or shoved. Instances when you receive speaking invitations you may not have time for, job offers you don't need, workshops to attend or chances to promote your work that could be great, but aren't necessary. In those cases you don’t have to say yes, but you do. And you should know that saying “no” because you’re not interested is reason enough.

Why is this so tough?

Because the fact that you have these options at all can make you feel so thrilled you feel obligated to do them. I know women who are so grateful to be doing the work they do that they feel it’s mandatory to do anything they’re asked. This can cause you to cave into saying “yes” to things when you really don’t want or need to. (After all, doing what you love can be a liability.)

I was interviewed on a radio show the other day and the very powerful, strong female host asked if I thought we even needed feminism anymore (she didn’t think so). We already have the right to work and vote and all of that. There are finally women CEOs (Marissa Mayer! Mary Barra!), women entrepreneurs and women millionaires. And yet there are nowhere near enough women doing what women can do because we remain cowed by what we believe we owe other people.

Can’t blame us, really. It’s how we’ve been raised and what our culture reinforces: That our job as a woman is to say “yes” to things. In my experience, the world doesn’t like when a woman turns it down, and so she better have a damn good reason. With that kind of expectation, whether it’s overt or implied, it’s no wonder we try to save ourselves the anguish of letting someone down by just saying yes, even when it’s the last thing we want to do. (By the way, this isn’t just true in our careers, but dating too.)

I say this, being in as tricky a position as you are: I’m ambitious, optimistic and I like to take on just a little more than I can handle. I believe that every opportunity may hold a gift inside and I fear that every missed opportunity could cost me. Being self-employed, I have a hard time saying “no” to almost anything. Who am I to not take this or that thing on offer?

But if you want to truly own your power and be self-possessed in every sense of the word, you need to evaluate the following.

1 2