Julia Wood & Associates

Yes… but I really mean NO!

Yes… but I really mean NO!

We’ve all done it, said yes when we really wanted to say NO!

Saying yes isn’t always a bad thing, even if you would rather say no. For example, you’ve seen a colleague in a pickle and wanted to help them (this makes you a very nice person).

Problems occur though if:

  • you’re a perpetual people pleaser
  • you’re really rubbish at saying no
  • your workload is already bursting at the seams

Also, you may well be damaging your own reputation as well as that of the organisation. Think of it this way:

  • The quality of your work will suffer because you don’t have time to do everything
  • Doing additional work takes you away from the work you should already be doing
  • You may miss deadlines

You may well be thinking, “well that isn’t the case because I will just work longer hours and get it done”.  Yes, you can do this, but this approach often brings a whole host of other problems, including:

  • you may not be able to pick the kids up from school or take them to gymnastics or football (yet again!)
  • you may annoy your spouse/partner by putting work first (yet again!)
  • you may miss out on a night out with friends (yet again!)
  • and the list goes on……

Saying yes when you mean no can also make you feel unhappy, taken advantage of, and anxious about how on earth you’re going to get all your work done, and can ultimately lead to stress and burnout.

So what can you do about it? Before saying no, do the following:

Understand the ask: I don’t know about you but often when people ask me to do something they will wildly (and I mean wildly) underestimate how long the task is going to take, so the ‘devil is in the detail’ in terms of understanding what is required and when it needs to be done by.

Consider trade-offs: Could another deadline be shifted or could some of your current work be passed to someone else?

If you decide your answer should be a definite no it can still be difficult to say the word out loud, particularly if you:

  • feel guilty about not help out
  • don’t want to disappoint a colleague
  • feel apprehensive about saying no to your boss
  • like to be viewed as the ‘go to’ person and/or all round team player

The trick is to say no in the right way:

  • While acknowledging that the work probably needs to be done somehow, clearly outline your reasons for say no.
  • BUT don’t be hesitant (even a little bit) as this may be viewed as you saying “well maybe”. 

The take away from this blog is to always remember that saying yes when you mean no doesn’t always do your reputation any good or make you happy.

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.”

Paulo Coelho


Julia specialises in Quality Improvement in the NHS,
supporting individuals, teams, and organisations
make positive changes to improve patient care and create happier working environments.

Julia Wood

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Coxwold Way
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