It’s ok to say ‘no’

Recently I was listening to Emma Gannon’s Podcast, CTRL ALT DELETE, where she was chatting with journalist Anna Hart about her career. Anna writes about travel and culture for a number of publications, including the Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller, Suitcase Magazine, the Guardian and Stylist Magazine (which is where I first came across her writing). Basically Anna has the career I would die for!

There was one part of the interview which really resonated with me. Anna said,

Your career in your 20s is about saying yes to everything that you can, whereas your career in your 30s is about what you say no to. And what improves your career is saying no to the right things.

As someone who is *cough* approaching her 40s, I’ve found this to be so true in my own life. It’s not just about knowing what to say ‘no’ to in your career though, but in your life too.

In your teens and twenties, a lot of time and energy is spent on going with the flow, saying ‘yes’ to things you don’t actually want to do and even maintaining friendships that have run their course because you’re afraid of what people will think of you if you don’t. It’s all about fitting in.

Saying ‘yes’ in your career in your twenties is good because it helps you learn and grow and helps you shape and define your path.

Bu when you hit your 30s, you know yourself better – your likes, your dislikes – and you don’t feel the need to ‘fit in’ anymore. You have the confidence to start saying ‘no’ because life is too short to be doing things that you don’t want to do – in both work and life.

When is it ok to say ‘no’?

Sometimes you can feel guilty for saying ‘no’ to someone or something because you feel you’re letting them down or you feel maybe guilty for putting yourself first. Of course there will be some occasions when you do have to say ‘yes’ even if you don’t really want to – for example, if you take on work that doesn’t exactly set you on fire but you need the money at that time. That’s ok. That’s normal. However, if you’re in a career that’s making you unhappy then consider a career change. Honestly, it’s never too late.

The below examples are when it’s absolutely ok to say ‘no’:

  • When what you’re being asked goes against your beliefs or ethics.
  • When you feel anxiety or dread at the thought of it. Yes it’s good to be taken out of your comfort zone but not if it causes you undue stress and sleepless nights.
  • When you can’t see any benefit to your career or yourself.

If you’re not used to saying ‘no’, try it the next time you really don’t want to do something and see how liberating it feels.

Scared to say ‘no’?

Asked yourself what you’re scared of. Is it that you think peoples’ perception of you will change? Are you afraid that people won’t like you anymore or that you’re letting them down or disappointing them?

Ask yourself instead, “Why should I say yes?”. If you can’t find a good reason for saying ‘yes’, then it’s definitely ok to say ‘no’.

When you start saying ‘no’, you’ll find that your life (and career) is more enriched because you’re only spending time on the things that matter to you.

It's ok to say 'No' & here's how to say it

Maxime Lelièvre

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