Saying ‘No’ to Say ‘Yes’

Saying No white

Looking Up to a Toddler?! It’s time for you to add a new and unlikely role model to your life…a toddler.  You may be doubtful.  After all, a role model is someone who has skills and traits you hope to emulate, but because of one specific talent, a toddler does fit the bill. Stick with me on this one; toddlers are amazing role models because of their consistent and unapologetic ability to say “NO!”  There are many things a toddler does well, and many not so well, but one thing all toddlers are experts at is standing up for what they want and what they need in the moment.  They don’t care for the way a friend is treating them? They say so! They don’t want to play that game?  They never hesitate to deny the request.  Somewhere along the path from childhood through the teenage years to adulthood, we lose that natural ability to speak our minds and say “no.”  This, of course, is a good thing in some settings.  But so often we agree to requests and favors and obligations because we feel we should be able to “do it all” or don’t want to let others down.  And somewhere along that journey, we start saying “yes” so much to others that we are saying “no” to ourselves and the things we truly want.

We say “yes” to that volunteer opportunity we aren’t really excited about and in turn say “no” to a quiet evening at home with the kids.  We say “yes” to a neighborhood get-together and in turn say “no” to our daughter’s request to go dress shopping.  We say “yes” to one more responsibility at work so we can make our boss happy and in turn say “no” to the quiet lunch hour we were planning and really, really need.

But saying “no” is not as simple as it was when we were under the age of five.  We cannot just stomp our foot and wrinkle our face and say those two simple letters.

So, how, then? Here are three simple steps to saying “no” you can fall back on in the moment:

First, be gracious! “Thank you so much for asking me/thinking of me…”

Next, let them down gently.  “Unfortunately, I’m not able to take that on right now/make it to that event/add any responsibilities to my plate.”

Last, let them know what you CAN do.  “I’d love to set up a time to get together when things settle down/I can’t chair that committee but I’d love to help out the day of the event/please let me know when other opportunities come up and I’ll see what I can do to make it work then!”

There is one key component to this, one way we need to remember our role model, the toddler: we do not need to apologize for saying “no” OR make a thousand excuses.  Can you imagine a 2-year-old saying “Oh, I’m so sorry I don’t want to play in the sandbox with you right now.  I don’t like the feel of the sand in my clothes, and I promised my mom I wouldn’t get my shirt dirty, and you smell a little like the broccoli you ate for lunch, so no, I don’t want to join you, but I am deeply apologetic.”  Brevity is key.  Thanks, but no thanks.  Try it! Once this week.  Say “no” to something that you don’t really WANT to do but feel you SHOULD do. Rely on the three simple steps and say “no” in order to say “yes” to yourself, your needs, your wants, your happiness.  Channel your inner toddler and be true to what you need and want.  Though, when it comes to table manners or bathroom habits, you might want to leave that inner toddler with a babysitter.


About Jamie G.

Jamie Gepner Photo

Jamie Gepner wants to live in a world where women live their best lives and fill their own cups first so they have more to give others.  Jamie is the founder and owner of little om BIG OM where she leads life-balance workshops and provides coaching to women in the Madison-area as a Certified Personal Renewal Group Facilitator.  Jamie is also a certified children’s yoga instructor and loves to play yoga with kids of all ages in schools and studios.When she’s not helping moms find their balance or going on a yoga adventure, Jamie can be found with her husband and three energetic kids, enjoying the Terrace, or on the mat as a student of yoga herself. Jamie loves the power that women can create when they support each other and is always a cheerleader when it comes to making little changes that can have a BIG impact.  You can read more about Jamie and little om BIG OM at or on her Facebook page.

4 Responses to Saying ‘No’ to Say ‘Yes’

  1. Shelley October 30, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    Great, sound advice, Jamie!

    Saying NO is a critical part to making our priorities a reality. Saying NO to those “opportunities” to serve that don’t serve our own priorities is a toughie, but totally necessary if we want to live the life of our dreams, vs the life of our obligations.

    Thanks for the great reminder and fun read!

  2. Jodi October 30, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Wow- this is so true. As a chronic over-extender, I make agreements and promises weekly that I shouldn’t. And, even with all the best intentions to follow-through, I almost always end up in a bind and frazzled. This article highlights where I’m going wrong and gives tools and realistic steps to help change my pattern. The metaphor of a toddler saying “no” without guilt or hesitation leaves a perfect visual in my mind that is sure to prompt my inner “no” in the future! So glad I read this valuable piece of advice! Thanks Jamie!

  3. Rebecca October 31, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Thanks for another great post, Jamie! Like you said, we have to make trade-offs with our time and energy. We can’t do it all so we have to prioritize. At one of your workshops, you helped me see that if a potential obligation doesn’t further one of my top 3 life goals (family, friends, being healthy), then it’s probably something that I should pass on right now. So far it’s working great for me, and I’m able to focus on my priorities.

    Your three simple steps for saying no gracefully are very helpful. Although there are still days when I’d like to stomp my foot and wrinkle my face!

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