Learning to say ‘no’.

By Zoe Taylor

‘No’ is a powerful word. ‘No’ can set you free.

Following on from our post Living a fast-paced life style in which we talked about de-stressing, having me time and keeping a work life balance when you’re a really busy person, we’re expanding on a point we made which was that once you start to notice that you have a lot more free time, the worst thing you could do is fill that new found free time with more commitments.

This is where the word ‘no’ comes in. It can often be one of the hardest words in the English language to say, but if it’s used in the right way, it will help you maintain the steady, balanced lifestyle you’re becoming accustomed to.

Of course, you have pick what you do and don’t say ‘no’ to. This is the first step. In the work place, saying ‘no’ is often not an option (within reason), especially if you’re looking to gain a promotion or pay rise. Outside the work place it’s easier and more reasonable to decline a project.

For example if someone asks you to help them with something outside the workplace, think before you commit. If you have a lot of time on your hands, and are looking for something to fill it with, it might be a good idea to take it on – as long as it doesn’t end up becoming a burden down the track and taking up too much of your spare time. However if your time is limited and the project isn’t something that will benefit you or your career, taking it on might just create unnecessary stress. So that’s why it’s important to think before you commit.


Once you’ve decided to decline a commitment, you need to work through the difficulty of saying ‘no’ and tell the person that asked you for help. The best way to approach this is to thank them for thinking of you, and explain that although you’d love to help out you don’t have enough time to put a lot of work into the project and that unfortunately, at this time the answer is ‘no’.

It could also be a case of choosing between two projects, for example one that will benefit you and your career (maybe an internship or an online course) and one that might make you feel good for helping out with, but will eat into time you could be focusing on taking your career to the next level (for example helping your friend paint their house or start up their business).

The person may be upset, however they should understand that it’s best not only for you, but for their project if you don’t take it on, because if you don’t have the time to put good work into it, it’s going to hinder it.

Saying ‘no’ is undoubtedly daunting but it’s important to overcome that feeling and do what’s best for you.

For help in finding the right career path for you, or for useful tips on areas such as studying, call 1800 143 080 or visit www2.collegesonline.com.au/mycareer to contact one of our friendly career advisors!

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