debra russell, artist's edge

How to Say: “NO” – Boundaries Part 2 by @ArtistsEdge

debra russell, artist's edgeby Debra Russell | Featured Contributor

I promise, with practice, being able to choose – yes or no – according to your values and priorities will give you tremendous empowerment and the freedom to create the life you want.

And as I promised in Boundaries and the Power of “NO” (or Go Ahead, Be the Bitch), here’s HOW to say “No.”

Know Your Yes

When you are unclear about what you are saying “Yes” to, saying “No” feels very uncomfortable. Let me give you a few examples:

Your neighbor (insert your person who just assumes you’re available all the time) rings your doorbell and says, “You’re not busy, right? I just had the biggest fight with my boyfriend and I need a shoulder…” And you say “Yes,” because you don’t have anything clearly scheduled. There aren’t any client appointments or external deadlines for your new business. Of course, there are a million things you could be/would be doing, but in that moment, when she knocks on your door – none of those things are clearly scheduled in your calendar. And she needs support, wouldn’t saying “No” be selfish?

A new client really wants to work with you and thinks you’re great – you’re soooo flattered and excited! But when it comes to setting your fees, you are tentative. And when they dicker you down, you agree, because you really want the work and you don’t actually have set fees and frankly the whole money discussion feels really uncomfortable. So, you say “Yes”. You’re grateful for the work, but you feel just a bit uncomfortable perhaps even resentful. Because you’ve allowed them to undermine your value. And that’s why negotiating those fees left such a sour taste in your mouth.

In order to be able to make a clear, clean “No”, you need to know what you’re actually saying “Yes” to. If you have your workday scheduled and a clear action plan for the day, it’s much easier to turn down those spontaneous requests. If your fee schedule is set, it’s so much easier to simply email the fee schedule to them. Then there’s no need for discussion. There it is, in black and white.

In order to create this clarity for yourself, you need to set up your systems: your time management system, your product/service systems, your marketing systems. In my “Systems Creation – Work Smarter, Not Harder” class – one of the fundamental principles I teach is that systems reduce stress, because you’ve already made the decisions in advance.

You’ve decided your schedule. So when someone calls and asks if you’re available – you can clearly answer, “No, I’m so sorry, I’m just not available this morning.” And here’s the coolest part – they don’t need to know what you’re busy doing. You are simply not available.

You’ve decided your rates and prices. So you can clearly and cleanly tell a prospective new client exactly what you charge – what your time, energy and expertise is worth. And then they can make a clear choice to work with you.

When you are clear about what you are saying “Yes” to, making your choice becomes much simpler.

The fundamental truth is, whenever we say “Yes” to one thing, we are saying “No” to everything else. And when you are clear, excited and passionate about what you’re saying “Yes” to, saying “No” becomes a No-Brainer!

Take Your Time

Here’s another example:

Your sister (insert the person you have the hardest time saying “No” to) calls and says, “You’re not busy this week, right? Could you help me with the bake sale for the school?” And you say “Yes,” because you are in the habit of saying “Yes” and she assumes that you will say yes. In that moment, without thinking – you do what you’ve always done. Only later you find out that it’s going to take hours and hours of your time.

My suggestion is to delay your answer:

“You know I love to help you. But I’m just not sure of my schedule for the rest of the week. What exactly will you need me to do? And when do you need to know by? OK – I can let you know first thing tomorrow morning.”

So, now you’re clear on what the request is. And you’ve given yourself 18 hours to think about it. Take your time, look at what you’ve already said, “Yes” to. And make a clear, intentional decision away from the other person’s urgency and need.

Never Justify or Explain Your No – Unless You’re Open to Negotiate

When you give reasons, justifications or explanations, you are leaving a door open. And if the person asking is astute, they will see that open door and pounce. If you’re clear the answer is no – just say no.

If, however, you are open to negotiation, you can present your “objections” and see how they counter. This is what happens in sales conversations all the time.

Every time someone asks you to do something for them – it’s a sales conversation. They’re selling you on their agenda and asking you to place their needs/urgency over you’re own. You do not have to say “No” all the time. Nothing wrong with saying “Yes” – as long as you are not doing violence to your own priorities and needs in the process.

A few final notes:

  1. The more comfortable you are with giving a clear “Yes” or “No”, the easier your sales conversations will be. Because if you’re clean in your decisions, you can hold the space for other people to be equally clean and clear in their decisions.
  2. When you know that your “No” is based on your own priorities and needs, then hearing “No” in your sales conversations will no longer feel personal. It’s not about you – it’s about them.
  3. You train people how to treat you. When you change, they may get angry or upset. Don’t allow their emotions to shake your decision. Just breathe and be present with their reaction. You are retraining them. And training rarely happens without discomfort, even pain. But it’s so worth it. You’re worth it.

How are you going to empower your decision making today? What will you say “No” to? I look forward to your comments!


Debra RussellDebra Russell, Certified Business Coach, founder of Artist’s EDGE, Certified Master Results Coach and Master NLP and Hypnosis Practitioner, uses her business knowledge and ability to facilitate change and growth to help small business owners create a prosperous and sustainable living doing what you love.

Debra specializes in small business and the Arts and Entertainment Industry and has delivered several innovative programs for entertainment industry trade conferences, Universities and Colleges and private organizations across the United States and in Europe and Australia.

As a fan and follower of, Debra is thrilled to offer women business owners her expertise in the day to day management of your small business and support in overcoming the challenges to success we all face as independent entrepreneurs.

Share :


2 Replies to “How to Say: “NO” – Boundaries Part 2 by @ArtistsEdge”

  1. Bewildered Bug

    I have such a hard time saying no on a general basis – I’ve been working on it and have gotten a lot better, and this year (2014) I decided was the year I was going to look out for me and my interests.

    Problem is – everyone I’ve said no to is now annoyed or angry with me. It’s not that I am trying to push them out of my life, I’m just really busy this year – with a Masters and a long distance marriage to contend with – I have no time to pay attention to helping you plan your wedding (x2), go shopping for baby clothes etc.

    How do you get past their annoyance at you saying no?

    1. Debra Russell

      So, first of all, if you’re grounded and centered when you say “No” – it will help them. If you have a hard time and have to really push it out – it can come out as testy or aggressive, rather than a loving and clear decision for yourself. And let them know you care about them.

      Second, if you’ve trained them to always expect a “Yes” it will take them time to adjust to this new you. If their relationship matters to you – take some time (after a bit of time has passed) to listen to their response – what came up for them when you said “No”? It can be a wonderful opportunity to deepen your relationship with them.

      Third, and probably most important – repeat this mantra “What you think of me is none of my business.”

Comments are closed.