Image: Movie 6/Death To Stock

For generations, women have been programmed to be more accommodating and say yes whether we want to or not.

We have demands made on our time, our finances, and energy. We feel a certain obligation to say yes because as women we want to be polite, nice, and helpful to others when we may not actually want to do it or or want it.

There’s nothing wrong with saying yes some of the time. We rationalise it in our heads that we are doing it for the right reasons, but saying yes all the time can become a habit with negative consequences. This is because others start expecting us to always agree, so you may need to step back and consider the consequences of yes as much as saying no.

What happens when we overuse the word yes?

It can leave us feeling dismissed, used and resentful. We feel drained of energy, taken for granted, unworthy, unappreciated. Saying yes adds extra stress to our life. It eats into our leisure time. It shortens our life span. It increases our blood pressure and decreases our immune system. And this can all lead to less sleep, exercise, and good health.

Why do people say yes?

We say yes based on our childhood experiences and cultural values.

We hear the word no from the moment we are born. It’s no running in the house, no hitting your brother and no yelling back. Oops! That’s my story but you get the point.

Kids hear the word “no” far too frequently, and while I’ve got your attention, parents please stop this to rephrase the sentence from a negative to a positive which will correct the behaviour without sounding critical i.e. “Walk please” instead of “No running”.

We grow up with all these mixed feelings about no. In a way, saying no in our culture can be interpreted as a form of aggression. No is a power word. No has negative connotations and people’s reactions towards no are of guilt and fear. They generally feel afraid of people when confronted with the word no or are afraid to say it themselves.

On the other hand, kids love experimenting with the word no as it defines their sense of self. That’s why for many parents and particularly working parents when they feel guilty about not spending enough time with their kids, they tend to give into the yes trap rather than to deal with their child’s negative behaviour, as well as tapping into their own feelings of guilt, resentment, anger, or general discomfort.

So it’s important to understand the yes trap you’ve got yourself into. It’s worth asking yourself –

What do you hope to benefit from saying yes?
When you say yes, what do you feel?
At what cost is saying yes to your life?
Ultimately what’s your biggest fear about saying no to family and work?

I hope by now you have started to create for yourself some new beliefs around saying no such as people will still like you, think you are reliable, hard-working, helpful and respect you.

How do you boost your CONFIDENCE to say no?

If you asked me what’s the second most common phrase I hear it’s, “ I’m lacking in confidence and need help”. Confidence in asking for a pay rise, presenting at conferences, and job interviewing are common themes for many of the corporate women I work with striving to be better jugglers.

Tanya’s Story

Tanya sent me the following email. Right now I am struggling with the idea of having to find a corporate job and one that’s flexible. I’m feeling overwhelmed at the thought of job interviews. I have no idea how I am going to work in a corporate role, manage my 3 children / childcare etc, and manage all of my household duties. I am full of anxiety about it.”

For Tanya we worked out a two step process. Tanya needed help in saying no to her friends and family which improved her time management skills, no to her partner hence setting better personal boundaries and delegating chores to the family i.e. another no that she would not be picking up after the kids.

I sent her worksheets on stopping interruptions, multitasking, to-do lists, prioritising, kids chores worksheet and no phrases. After helping Tanya with these things, she felt more confident in her home environment to tackle that confidence to addressed her job hunting and interviewing skills.

To help Tanya with her performance at interviews, I first asked her to visualise herself sitting at a table for her panel interview. I got her to visualise speaking calmly, rehearsing in her head all the challenging questions they may ask and that she could response. Then using affirmations to change the way she feels about herself and the way she would behave during the 45 min interview, I suggested to her to repeat three times a day affirmations in the present tense. “I am confident being interviewed,” ‘I am confident in my speaking abilities’

One month later, Tanya not only found her self employment, but the confidence to negotiate a flexible working arrangement that enabled her to work one day a week from home.

It can be hard to say no to people, but remember your no can be delicately phrased to mean “not right now”.

Here’s three strategies for you to start implementing today!

  1. Evaluate your boundaries. Health Positive suggests asking yourself, to what extent are you willing to restrict your openness to being used by others? What is acceptable behaviour for you and what is unacceptable? Being able to analyse this factor allows you to measure what can be done for others and what shouldn’t be done for others. Learn how to identify and label unacceptable treatment from others, and how to set limits on their behaviour when they violate your boundaries.
  1. Just as you slowly change from being a yes person you need to guard against the persuasive tactics of others. Always be on the look out for manipulative requests that can catch you off guard such as people giving you something before asking for it in return. Or another play is to make a demand and if you say no than make a smaller one …. “Could you at least try?” To manipulate the person with guilt such as “Oh but mum said she’d do it.”
  1. Every morning make a list of the top five commitments that matter to you. Then each day look at ALL your commitments and get comfortable at saying NO to the non essential ones.

As a result of reading this blog, what could you start doing today to help you stay firm when expressing your no?


How to Stop Being a People Pleaser | Health Positive.(n.d.). Retrieved from

Fiona CraigFiona Craig is a work-life balance coach, business mentor, writer, speaker and buy mum who loves helping women become better at juggling career and family life or to create a better work-life balance by starting a business.

Fiona’s new book, “Stuck In A Rut: How to rescue yourself & live your truth“, out September 2015 with a whole chapter dedicated to “Celebrating Your No”.  Email Fiona at or call 0405 433 217 for a FREE 20 minute, Rut Rescue Strategy Session.