How to Say YES to NO

I can’t help you move this weekend- I’m writing a book. (548 words)

There’s a novel brewing inside you that you are dying to get on paper, but where’s the time?  Maybe you’ve been waiting to take that cooking class because, let’s face it, you’ve just about exhausted every way of doctoring up mac ‘n cheese.  Or maybe you just need a day of relaxation because you’ve pushed yourself to the limit but, alas, no time.  Where is your time going, anyway? Let’s see…work…eat…sleep…help John move…walk Karen’s dog…take Chris to the airport….wait!  With all this time for other people, where’s the YOU time?

You’re a good friend.  You’re Mr. Reliable or Miss Always-There.  We get it. But when you’re the one who needs a favor from you, you don’t have the time. So something’s got to give if you want to live a meaningful life. Learning to say NO to others might be the route to saying a bigger YES to yourself.

Saying NO is sometimes not an easy task. We want to please. We want approval. We want evidence that we are good because we fear that maybe we are not. Maybe we want to get closer to someone and we don’t know another way to have intimacy. It could also be a way to avoid your creative pursuits with the illusion of a good excuse. Or maybe you just don’t know how.

Are those behaviors ringing a bell? Is your over-yes’ing getting in the way of what matters to you? Fear not. There are solutions. Often, shutting the door on obligations opens windows of opportunities.

Here’s a simple plan that can help you tame your yes-reflex:

  • The first thing is to identify what you want to do that you feel you are not doing. It may be one big project or a bunch of smaller dreams. Whatever your list looks like, it’s good. It’s you.
  • After you’re done figuring this out, ask yourself “Why is this important to me?” Dig deeper. Make it bigger. Maybe you want to go to the gym. Well, sexy calves are cool, but how about health, peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment? The bigger your YES, the harder it will be to give it up.

Once you have a list of what matters to you, it’s time to make a filter to handle all the “please help me’s!” that come your way.

  • Anytime a request lands on your plate, ask yourself one or any of these: Do I want to do this? Do I have the time? If I say yes to this, what do I have to say no to?
  • If you are still unclear, create a scale to rank your priorities. Ask your friend, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is this to you?” with the caveat that they can’t always use 10’s. Is your friend asking you to help clean out her son-in-laws garage or for a ride to the doctor because of a raging ear infection? You get the picture. 10’s are for special occasions only.

After applying this system, I bet you’ll start living a life that resembles the one you actually want. Saying NO has such a bad rep but really, it’s a path that can lead your towards more freedom, gratitude and self-esteem. NO is magical. NO is your friend. NO kidding.


Sophie Chiche, catalyst, visionary, curator of characters and mom is the founder of, a global community gathered around the question, “What is meaningful to you?” She has master’s degrees in business, journalism and psychology.

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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