When It’s Alright to Say No

by Jul 17, 2017

If you’ve ever seen Jim Carey’s Yes Man then you know that saying yes to everything isn’t always the best idea.  Yet we are often told that saying ‘yes’ is the key to progression – to opportunities, relationships, career success, or general life achievements. While this may be true in many cases, this particular mentality has led to an influx of people whole feel guilty for saying ‘no’. Whether it’s to opportunities or to requests for help, saying ‘no’ does not make you a bad person – and here’s why.

You can’t achieve your best if you’re not at your best

Looking after your mental health is important, and sometimes taking care of yourself means saying ‘no’ to things that other people may jump at. Unfortunately, opportunities or requests can come along at times in your life where, were you to take them on, they could be damaging to your well-being. Those are the times when it’s okay to say ‘no’ and not feel guilty about it!

Being open to opportunities doesn’t mean disregarding your mental or physical health. Even if something amazing comes your way, you’ve got to put you first. The same thing applies if someone asks for your help with something – if you’re not in a good place to give them a hand, then agreeing not only means you’re wearing yourself out, but you are also less likely to provide the best assistance.

Say, for example, you’ve just started a new job. It’s your first day in the office, there’s a bit of adrenaline pumping, you’re a little nervous, and you definitely want to make a great first impression. You manage to make it through the day, and desperately want to go home and go to bed. However, as you’re leaving, one of your new colleagues asks if you want to go for drinks with them. Tonight’s not a great night for you, but you don’t want to say ‘no’ for fear of being rude.

Instead of forcing yourself to go when you really don’t want to, just be honest with them. Tell them that it’s not a great night, and ask them when they’re next free to do something. By turning them down you’re looking after yourself, and by rescheduling you’re making sure they know that you’re genuinely interested in spending time with them!

Sometimes you’ve given enough

Some relationships, both professional and personal, can be super beneficial to you. There’s a great give-and-take, and you’re both genuinely trying to help the other out. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Unfortunately, there are relationships that start out great but quickly turn toxic, and you may find yourself giving more than you’re receiving. If that’s the case, then it may be time for you to start saying ‘no’ to their requests. Relationships are meant to go two ways, and if one party is taking advantage of the other then it’s stopped being healthy, and it’s time to start saying ‘no’.

These situations can be particularly hard – it can be easy to turn down requests or opportunities that only benefit you, but when you’re saying ‘no’ to someone else it can be a lot more difficult. To make things easier, make sure you communicate to them the issue you are having in a calm and respectful way. If having an open and honest conversation about the issue doesn’t help, then it’s okay to start telling them ‘no’ and not beat yourself up about it.

Some opportunities may be a step backwards

There are times throughout your career where saying ‘yes’ to something can actually be a step backwards. This mentality of accepting every opportunity that comes your way relies on the idea that each opportunity will provide you with worthwhile experience. While in many cases this is true, sometimes gaining that experience can actually be more detrimental than simply turning down the offer when it comes your way. This is particularly true when saying ‘yes’ to the opportunity would be detrimental to something else in your life.

For example, if you’re studying full-time and working part-time, then maybe taking on a new gig may not be strictly feasible in the middle of a semester. If, upon balancing your commitments you know you won’t be able to give them your all if you take on another role, then it’s perfectly fine to turn it down. Saying ‘no’ to opportunities your friends or colleagues would jump at shouldn’t make you feel guilty – it’s good career management. You need to put yourself in the position where you can achieve your best while still feeling your best (basically, you need to look after that work/life balance).



Saying ‘no’ doesn’t always mean you’re shutting yourself off from opportunities – it means you’re simply preparing yourself for whatever will come along next. So take care of yourself, be honest with those around you, and everything will work out in the end!


Featured image courtesy of Goodfon.

By Mia Casey

By Mia Casey


Mia is a Sydney-based copywriter and content creator, who ran the UTS Careers Blog for five years since its conception in 2016.
Her freelance work focuses on branding development and helping companies create a cohesive identity narrative tailored for each of their platforms.
She enjoys piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.