How To Say No

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Check out the video transcript:

Do you have a hard time saying no? Well stay tuned, I'm about to share with you why this is, as well as share my simple formula for saying no. Assistants, if you would like more transformational strategies geared towards you, please subscribe to my channel and hit the bell to be notified when my weekly episodes go live.

I'm Annie Croner of and on today's episode of The Whole Assistant Show, I'm going to be talking about saying no. Saying no can be really challenging for us as assistants because it's literally our job to be helpful, but what we need to keep in mind is that whenever we say yes to something, we are inevitably saying no to something else. This is true because there's only so much time in the day. There's only 24 hours in the day and we need to realize that saying no to something makes room for the yeses that we actually want in our lives and in our careers as well. We do not have to say yes to absolutely everything that hits our plate or that comes our way.

So, this is such a struggle for us primarily because of what happens up here. We have lots of thoughts and I've written a few down for you. So, thoughts in our heads such as, "People will think I can't handle my job if I say no. It's just quicker if I handle it other than delegating it. I'm afraid of what my executive will think of me, or he may push back and I don't want to deal with the discomfort of his pushing back. I don't like conflict." That's another great thought that we always think that will keep us from saying no, "It's better to keep the peace than it is to say no." Or, "It will only take a few minutes for me to do this, even though it's really outside of the parameters of my role and I probably shouldn't be doing it because of my boundaries. It'll only take me a few minutes."

So those are some common thoughts that I've seen assistants have and I've had myself actually, when it comes to saying no. The problem with not saying no, however, is that boundaries never really get established. People aren't really sure where the line is with you because you're saying yes again and again and again, and this can lead to frustration and discontent in our roles if we are not clear with our boundaries and if we don't even know what those boundaries are. So some of us don't even know what they are, we only know when they've been crossed and then we get really frustrated and perturbed, but it's other people's jobs to test boundaries. So just bear that in mind, it's literally their job to test the boundary.

So it can be really frustrating when we don't say no long-term and then our well-being suffers as a result, and then we'll end up feeling like we're always at the effects or at the mercy of our circumstances. So, we're always going to feel pushed around by life if we don't establish those boundaries and if we don't inevitably say no to something.

So how can we actually say no? I have a couple of thoughts for you with regards to this. The first step is to realize that you can still be solutions-oriented, even if you aren't going to perform the task yourself. So sometimes someone will bring something to me and be like, "Can you handle this, or can you deal with this?" I will tell them no, but then I will give them some good, creative food for thought or a good encouraging word to set them on the right track or whatever it may be. We can still be solutions-oriented and say no, guys. Just remember that. So, that's the first thing to realize.

Then also realize that we train people how we want to be treated with every interaction and setting boundaries is really more about that than it is about stomping into someone's office and laying down the law. So realize that as well. You can slowly train people to respect your boundaries based on how you respond to them when they ask you to do stuff for them, so that they know and they're clear. Oftentimes people will test the boundaries because they aren't sure what they are and they aren't clear what the boundaries look like, so realize that as well.

Then my favorite method for saying no, that is proven very effective for me in my personal life, me, myself in my personal life, and then also when it comes to saying no in my professional life as well as the affirm, deny, affirm method. So you want to start out with an affirmation and I'm going to give you an example. Say Susie wanted me to help with a fundraiser at my child's school and I didn't want to do it, I'm too booked and I have other things going on and I just really don't want to participate. I would start out with something affirming, "Oh, thank you so much Susie, for thinking of me, I really appreciate it." Then I would give a very clear no. "Unfortunately I've set out my goals for this season of my life, or this quarter, or this year," whatever you want to say. "So I won't be able to help you." Very clear no, there's nothing ambiguous about that. Then you end with an affirmation as well. So then you say, "Susie, but thank you so much for reaching out. Please let me know how the fundraiser goes. I hope you're able to raise a lot of money." Easy peasy, affirm, deny, affirm.

Now, this is not my idea. I got this from Michael Hyatt on Amy Porterfield's podcast. The second I heard it, I rewound it because I thought it was brilliant. I have used it since, and it works like a charm. It's positive, it's uplifting. People understand why you're saying no more often than not. They get that people are busy and it's just a very clear no so you aren't yanking people around, or leading people on, or pushing off certain things that you don't want to do, or really don't have time for. So, the affirm, deny, affirm method works like a charm.

Hopefully, this episode has given you some good food for thought when it comes to saying no. Please leave a comment below sharing whether or not you will use the affirm, deny, affirm method as well as any other thoughts you have about this important topic.

Now, if you struggle with saying no, and you're curious whether or not working with me in a coaching capacity is right for you, please feel free to email me at [email protected] to schedule your complimentary discovery call. To continue this discussion and receive support from your fellow assistants, please head on over to to join our assistants-only community.

If you liked this episode, please let me know by hitting the like button below. Also, be sure to subscribe and share this episode with your fellow assistants and administrative professionals. Last but not least, if this episode has helped you in any way, I want to hear about it. So please leave a comment below, sharing how.


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