3 Doc Solutions Saying No Blog

Is it time to take back control of your workload?

You care what people think and you don’t want to let others down so when they ask you to do something you find yourself saying yes, even though it’s not your job, you haven’t time, or you would much rather be doing something else. You are a people-pleaser.

We may feel pressure to say yes for several reasons: to be nice; to avoid rejection; to gain approval; or to avoid conflict. It is natural that we want to be liked. We are taught as children to help others, as a Brownie every week I promised to help other people (as well as to do my duty to God and the Queen!)

Do you find yourself doing work for free? Does your work pile up while you’re busy helping others? If someone else says I know the perfect person to help and gives your name then it’s flattering, but you have been set up. How can you say no now? If you don’t live up to those high expectations, you may feel you will be a failure.

In her book The disease to please – Curing the people-pleasing syndrome, Harriet B Braiker Ph.D says “The diseased to please is a compulsive – even addictive – behaviour pattern. As a people-pleaser, you feel controlled by your need to please others and addicted to their approval. At the same time, you feel out of control over the pressures and demands on your life that these needs have created.”

Why it is hard to say ‘no’

If you are asked to do something it can be hard to say no. You might be afraid of how the other person will react. You want to make them happy but saying yes and not delivering would be worse. And taking on something that impacts your other commitments is not good either.

You can’t do everything, or you will burnout, so you must make choices and decide to say no to some things. Consider the costs, time and money, along with the other opportunities that you won’t be able to take on because of this. Think about your priorities and only say yes if they won’t be negatively impacted.

“If you don’t prioritise your life someone else will” Says Greg McKeown, in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. “His advice is to separate the decision from the relationship. “When people ask us to do something we can confuse the request with our relationship with them. Sometimes they seem so interconnected, we forget that denying the request is not the same as denying the person. Only once we separate the decision from the relationship can we make a clear decision and then separately find the courage and compassion to communicate it.”

Not saying ‘no’ drains time and energy.

Sometimes it feels easier to say yes, anything for a quiet life! You’re asked ‘Will you just answer this short survey…?’ half an hour later you realise this was not the best way to spend your time.

Saying no can be the right thing to do for you and sometime also for the person who is asking. Say it clearly and kindly. Dragging out saying no, being non-committal or unclear is worse, especially if the requester thinks you’ve said yes when you haven’t. Just ignoring the situation wastes your time and theirs, it will remain hanging over you until you do give a clear no and the confusion potentially could spoil your relationship.

How to say no


Just say no – no thanks.

Be clear – I can’t.

Be honest – I don’t really enjoy doing that.

Give reasons to help the other person understand you’re not just being selfish – Thanks for thinking of me but I have too much on right now.

Trust your gut and be assertive. If you don’t feel comfortable, you’ll probably regret taking it on. Don’t feel bullied into agreeing to something that you don’t want to do.


Be afraid to say no.

Make up excuses you might get caught in a lie.

Feel guilty it’s your time and it’s precious just say no, say it politely but firmly.

Just because you said yes before doesn’t mean you have to do everything someone asks of you. Saying yes all the time, as a way to keep people happy and make them like you, doesn’t really work. They probably won’t appreciate what you are giving up to help them out and may end up taking you for granted. Also watch out for those that are always asking others to do things, always just taking and not helping others in return. Avoid these people!

Solution-focused responses

You may be able to help in a way that will mean the other person gets what they need without you having to do what they are asking now.

Have you tried doing this instead?

I can recommend someone else.

I can’t do it now but next month when I’m less busy I can help.

I can’t help with this but if there is something else let me know I may be able to do that instead.

If you are doing another thing for them, for example, if it’s a client asking, say … I can do this if I stop or delay something else, ask them to choose.

Setting boundaries if you say ‘yes’

Negotiate. Agree to do some of the work or, if possible, spend some time showing the person how to do it so that they won’t need help in the future.

Define the work. Be clear about what it is you will do and only do that. Scope creep is where extra work keeps getting added on and therefore will just eat up more of your precious time.

Remember you can always change your mind. If circumstances change, if something else comes up, if the requirements change and it’s not what you originally agreed to, then say no, I can no longer do this.

If there’s something you need to outsource, to get off your plate, maybe 3DVA can help? Contact me for a chat.

Learning to Say ‘No’ constructively