Learning How to Say No: 8 Powerful Tips

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Being able to make smart decisions about your commitments is a key element to staying on top of your professional and personal game.

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Learning How to Say No: 8 Powerful Tips

Do you have a hard time saying no in difficult situations? As artists and creative people, it’s so ingrained in our lifestyle to always have something cooking on the back burner. We’re thinking about the next job before the first one ends. 

And that insecurity can permeate into all aspects of our lives, where we become absolute people pleasers and put the needs of others before our own—at work, with our loved ones, even when we’re alone!

On Monday, the last day of Mental Health Awareness Month, tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the 2021 French Open. The 18-time grand slam winner and world No. 2 explained that participating in the mandatory press conferences were negatively impacting her mental health. 

It was a big step to say no, especially in a public, professional environment, and take a break to focus on her well-being. So this week, I want to empower you to learn to say no. 

Without being rude.
Without feeling guilty.
And in a way that puts your health and happiness first.

Learn to say no without feeling guilty

Why Being Able To Say No Is Necessary

When your career hits a certain level, everyone may want to work with you—but the number of hours in your day is not going to increase with success. And if you don’t learn these lessons now, it’ll only make it harder when things really take off! 

You will eventually hit a wall if you aren’t able to balance your drive with your body and mind’s essential needs. You won’t be able to bring your best, most fabulous, talented self to the table because you’ll be totally burned out.  

Actor Charlie Hunnam revealed his own experience with an jam-packed schedule and lack of downtime, which led to him backing out of the lead role in the 50 Shades of Grey franchise.  In an interview with Elle magazine, Hunnam said, “I was going to finish playing a psychopath who’d just lost his wife [in “Sons of Anarchy”], and five days later I’d be on set playing Christian Grey… It was the opposite of how I’ve tried to ground my career, not stretch myself too thin, and always do my homework.”

And he had also committed to Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak as well, so he would have been trying to cram Grey in between these two massive projects without any time to decompress or prepare. In his own words, it was going to be a disaster. 

Hunnam isn’t the only artist to struggle with their mental and physical well-being and need to take a break. Check out this roster of stars who have prioritized their health in Hollywood. 

Being able to make smart decisions about your commitments is a key element to staying on top of your professional and personal game. If you need a lesson in utilizing that dreaded two-letter word, here are a few things to keep in mind.

8 Powerful Tips For Saying No Effectively

Look at the positive side of saying no.

1) Look at the positive side to saying no.

Instead of focusing on how uncomfortable turning down opportunities makes you feel, shift your attention to why you’re saying no in the first place—namely, what’s most important to you. Time you spend on pointless meetings and favors is time you could instead be devoting to your own passion. So it better be worth it, right!?

Make sure you’re crystal clear on your future vision for your life and career—and your core values. Remind yourself that you’re not losing something, you’re gaining more time to devote to your bliss. 

2) Be courteous, but firm. 

Let’s face it, a bitter pill is easier to swallow with a little sugar. Regardless of whether you’re in a personal or professional setting, be polite when you turn something down. And don’t leave any ambiguity about your answer; it will just muddy the waters to prolong the conversation.

Here are a few examples: 

“I appreciate you asking me for help, but my plate is overloaded right now.” 

“Thank you for thinking of me, but I need to focus on [your current priority] right now.”

“I don’t feel that is a good fit for me at this time.” 

“I’m not comfortable with that.”

3) Don’t apologize. 

Resist the urge to begin with “I’m sorry, but…” Actress Elizabeth Olsen shared some valuable advice recently that she got from her sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen: No is a complete sentence. 

I freaking love that! Because it gives the power back to you. It’s your time and talent we’re talking about after all. You don’t need to apologize or explain why the answer is no. Your time is valuable. Full stop!

4) Write it down first.

If you’re stressed out about saying no, and you have the chance, write out what you’re going to say before the big moment. Then learn your lines, baby! Practice saying your script aloud until you feel more relaxed. 

Write yourself a script to help you learn to say no.

5) Offer an alternative.

It’s perfectly fine (and super helpful) to provide an alternative option. If you’re willing to work on something under different circumstances, propose a new plan that works for you. Or if you know of another person you can recommend that would love the opportunity, offer to make an introduction. 

You can even keep the door open for a future collaboration by saying something like, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Or, “I’m not available right now, but we can schedule a time later.”

6) Remember that the world will go on! 

Don’t lose sight of the fact that we’re all human, even the big bosses, big name directors and A-list super stars. At the end of the day, we understand that sometimes things don’t work out the way we want or expect. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. 

Trust me, they will find someone else to do what they want and they’ll be fine.  

7) Make yourself less accessible.

This may sound controversial, since as creative artists and entrepreneurs we’re often glued to our communication, but if you’re being bombarded by requests, take a break from technology. You’re entitled to rest and care. You’re entitled to solitude when you need it. 

And no reply is sometimes just as good as a straight-forward NO. I’m not recommending you ghost everyone, but you can absolutely send out the bat signal that you’re unavailable for a period of time. 

Here are a few examples:

“Just a heads up, I will be traveling next week and unavailable for new projects.” 

“I’m booked out for the next two weeks. Let’s connect afterwards if you need me.”

Improving your confidence will make it easier to say no.

8) Improve your confidence. 

If you want to get better at saying no, the key is working on knowing your own worth! When you are secure in your worth and the value of what you bring to any endeavor, it will be easier to have these awkward conversations. It may feel like you’re being selfish at first, but prioritizing your needs first will lead to better work relationships, a more positive outlook on life and increased creative flow. 

And here’s a quote I recently read: Know your worth, then add tax. 

Do you have a hard time saying no to favors or jobs? How has it affected your mental health? Let me know by posting in the comments below or in the Badass Beauty Club on Facebook. 

LOVE + encouragement!

Moniqua Plante
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I'm Moniqua, your new let's-get-real friend.

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A Real Food Devotee + Self Care Connoisseur + Jedi Mindset Master dedicated to helping you elevate your health, happiness, your life—and your career.

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Health Coach + Confidence Curator + Wellness Expert for Actors and Creative Professionals

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