On saying no (and being okay with it)

I’ve been on a nay-saying spree lately. And it feels good.


I got a sudden rush of interest from students around the start of my holiday last month for help with essays and tutoring. I turned them down, but said I’d be available from October for any future inquiries. Much as the money would have been nice, I wasn’t going to stress myself out trying to cater to them while in the South Island without a computer.


I refused to pander to a request that came my way during the course of a work day, one that I was fully entitled to say no to, but still felt slightly guilty about. When it came down to it, the time it would have taken me vs the potential payoff simply didn’t add up.  The whole thing took up far more of my brainspace than it should have, but I don’t feel bad for it – and hopefully I’m setting a precedent for myself going forward. (I have a feeling this may be tested sooner rather than later.)


I politely asked a clueless marketing person to stop spamming me. Here’s how it went: she’d send me a link to an infographic, asking if I would share it on our website. She would then follow up with a string of incessant emails asking if I had decided to use it (and in one case, even asking who else I knew that she could approach about it). This cycle repeated for about three different pitches. Apparently infographic outreach is the crappiest of crap tasks, which I can totally understand. But here’s a piece of free advice: stalking your targets is never a winning tactic.

Ignoring her led nowhere, and an abrupt ‘no thanks’ to one of her countless messages was evidently not a strong enough hint.  I hate confrontation, so I considered simply marking her email address as ‘spam’ and directing all future emails into my junk mail. But I stiffened my backbone and wrote back something along these lines:

Based on your previous emails, I don’t think the topics you cover are a good fit. You’re welcome to keep sending pitches, but please don’t send multiple emails to follow up. I receive hundreds of emails a day and simply don’t have time to respond to them all

…managing to resist adding a snotty “least of all, unsuccessful pitches” at the end of it.

Not that she took any heed of my reply (sigh), earning herself a free and permanent pass straight to my junk folder. Takeaway: do not hesitate to flag and block potential Spammy McSpammersons.

We’re all busy. We all have too much on our plate. Saying no isn’t a luxury – it’s a must.

Do you struggle with saying no? When was the last time you did?

10 thoughts on “On saying no (and being okay with it)

  • Reply Savvy Working Gal October 26, 2012 at 04:23

    Learning to say no is one of the things I wish I would have mastered when I was younger – I am getting much better at it though. I was asked to speak at an event next Tuesday and said no. I am on vacation this week, so I knew if I were to speak at the event in addition to getting caught up on my work I would be a nervous wreck.

    A couple of years ago, I agreed to host an event during my company’s year-end (I am an accountant) for this same organization . It ended up being a hellish-nightmare. Afterwards one of my friends told me I needed to start practicing saying no in the mirror. I think of that every time I am asked to do something that is a bit much for me.

  • Reply theoutliermodel October 26, 2012 at 04:42

    Saying no can be very liberating. I have said no to a few concert review requests and freelance writing requests. The concert review would have been a tight fit with other commitments I had mad and the writing gigs were on topics I wasn’t super familiar with and would have required research. Extra money is nice, but sometimes free time is nicer. 🙂

  • Reply Mo' Money Mo' Houses (@momoneymohouses) October 26, 2012 at 08:02

    I had a similar experience with an enquirer hounding me about a guest post. Even though I told him know, everytime I went on my gmail, he would try to gchat with me. Finally, I told him for the last time I was not interested, but seriously, how clueless can you be!

  • Reply Kara E October 26, 2012 at 10:33

    I suck at saying “No,” especially when it comes to work. I guess I try too hard to be an overall people pleaser. I don’t even remember the last time I did say no!

  • Reply Sweet Mama M October 26, 2012 at 15:45

    I’ve been laying down the law a little in my own life too, with fabulous results. Not only is it teaching me about my own limits but it’s also setting a good example for my students as to healthy balances in their own lives.

  • Reply Janine October 27, 2012 at 04:20

    Good for you! I find it really hard to say no at times, and it’s definitely something I need to work on.

  • Reply Yakezie (@Yakezie) October 27, 2012 at 16:33

    When it comes to work stuff though, maybe you need to change it to YES, YES, YES through the end of the year b/c right now is when everything is determined.

    whatcha think?

    • Reply eemusings October 27, 2012 at 17:06

      Respectfully, I don’t think you know enough about publishing to understand, and certainly not the circumstances in any case. This was an external thing from a PR rep. No contest. (Bosses would approve, in fact. I actually need to do more of it, not less. It’s just my personal problem with saying no, which seems to be an overwhelmingly female thing.)

  • Reply nicoleandmaggie October 29, 2012 at 07:16

    At work I’ve gotten good at saying, “Yes, but” and “I wish I could, but”. That means I’m no longer the first person they ask to do thankless tasks, despite being female. So I actually don’t have to say no much anymore. I do volunteer for a certain amount of scut work, but I do my fair share and not much more.

    Re: those emails, I’m not even sure there’s a real person behind them because we’ll get multiple emails with the same text but with different potential author names. I just delete them without replying.

  • Reply Life [Comma] Etc October 31, 2012 at 05:01

    It’s as if they don’t understand that their email gets to a real person… craziness!

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