The Importance Of Learning To Say No (And How To Get Yourself Out Of Sticky Situations)

As humans we’re predisposed to want to make our lives easier, to make everyone around us happy and content. We spend our days undertaking mundane tasks in an effort to please, our spare time with people we’d really rather see only when absolutely necessary, and as a Brit it’s even harder to peel yourself away from obligations rather than doing what makes you content. Our lives are busier than ever, our working weeks bleeding into our weekends and FOMO (fear of missing out) is becoming a very real problem – all because we’re not very good at saying no. Learning to use those two little letters will really change your life and free up your incredibly valuable time to do what makes you happy (or what actually makes you money.) In order to live an efficient, happy and healthy life it’s vital to get to grips with the word ‘no’ and start putting it to practice.

I’ve spent such a long time feeling guilted into doing things I didn’t want to, or feeling obliged to help people out when they provided absolutely nothing in return. I’ve wasted so many days away in unproductive meetings, given people huge amounts of advice for them to never follow through on promises, and spent so much money on trips and nights out when I’d really rather be at home in bed watching Netflix. Something clicked in me as I turned 30 and I started to live the life that I wanted, acting a little more selfishly and focusing on what made me happy – rather than always what pleased other people. Since then I’ve refined my ability to say no and it’s really made my working week more efficient and my spare time all the more enjoyable.

You don’t have to act like a complete moron to start living the life you want, instead honing the skill of getting out of a sticky situation through politeness, honesty and often an alternative solution. People will understand if you explain, often not even realising that you’re turning them down in such a black and white way. It may feel a touch awkward at first, but once you’ve made a decision to stop doing things that you don’t want to you’ll feel liberated and refreshed. If you need a little help, here are some examples of when and how I’ve had to say no (in a work capacity) over the last couple of weeks…

“Can you give us some advice over a coffee and help refine our business’ future direction?” 
My response: Thank you for getting in touch, but I unfortunately don’t offer free consultations. I’ve worked within the beauty industry for over a decade and offer a plethora of knowledge, which I’m aware has significant value. I’m always willing to compromise on my rates, but any meeting will need to be booked as a formal consultation and invoiced accordingly.

“We’re really focusing on this product right now; can you get a post live this week?” 
My response: I appreciate that’s your focus as a brand, but my priority is my reader and generating stories that are of value. I need to thoroughly test and try the product, assessing whether I feel there is a place for it on my site, which takes time. However, if you’d like to discuss a commission to promote a campaign or to touch on your key USPs then I can send you my media kit for reference. 

“Are you free to join our launch event on Monday night? We’d love to see you there!” 
My response: Unfortunately I no longer attend evening events as I have commitments at home, which is a long journey from central London. I hope it goes well, and of course do let me know what I miss by following up post event.

“We only have a small budget. Would you be able to do it for £X instead?” 
My response: As that’s only 25% of my usual fee, it’s unfortunately too low for to consider right now; I have other commitments that are paying full rate card that I must prioritise. I’m always willing to negotiate, but the time and effort required to create what you desire has a much greater value than you’re prepared to offer. Please do get in touch in the future when you have a larger budget.

“Are you free for a catch up over coffee in the next couple of weeks?” 
My response: I’d love to see you soon, but my diary is swamped right now. When you have some new launches to show me or future campaigns to discuss, do let me know and I’m sure I can find some time for you.

“We don’t know if you’re any good until after we’ve done a promo. Can you do the first piece for free?”
My response: My credentials, statistics, award wins and industry recognition undoubtedly proves my value; after all, you came to me as you thought I could offer your brand something! You would need to commission a feature to help cover the costs of my time, photographer and promotion across my networks. Do let me know if you have the budget available to support this – now or in the future.

In a nutshell, pretty much any sticky situation can be resolved by following these three simple steps:
1. Explain the reasons why their request isn’t possible right now.
2. Offer up an alternative solution that’s mutually beneficial.
3. Leave the conversation open ended, so you can re-visit in the future. 

It’s hard to say no to something when you’re feeling guilted or pressured into saying yes, even more so when the request comes from someone you genuinely like. The problem gets worse when those making the request (either professionally or personally) are genuine friends or colleagues you’ve known for a long time. I love catching up with friends and drinking far too much prosecco at the bar, but I’d rather not spend my valuable free time at toddler birthday parties or hen dos where I don’t know anyone. If you don’t want to offend, but also don’t want to attend, often a response that simply says ‘to be completely honest that’s not my thing, but how about we do XYZ together instead to make up for it?’ is more than enough to fulfill your obligations without offending.

Our time is so precious and we have so many obligations, particularly as women, but often looking after yourself and your own priorities will make you so much happier than focusing on everyone else around you. I’m not saying that skipping the office Christmas party or avoiding your Nan will provide the secret to ultimate happiness, but learning when to say yes and when to say no really will take the pressure off an already over-pressurised life. I promise.


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  1. The Bookish Reader
    December 1, 2017 / 8:09 am

    Great advice as usual Hayley 🙂

    • Hayley Hall
      December 1, 2017 / 4:32 pm

      Glad it was helpful!

  2. Jess
    December 1, 2017 / 5:25 pm

    Another blog post coming at the right time. I now know what I need to do to answer an email I received recently. Thanks Hayley!

    • Hayley Hall
      December 5, 2017 / 8:08 pm

      Glad I could help!

  3. Kirsty Merrett
    December 1, 2017 / 7:32 pm

    such a good post and so much truth! you know i find it hard to say no!

    • Hayley Hall
      December 5, 2017 / 8:08 pm

      It's all about saying no – or flipping it round to your favour 😉

  4. Anonymous
    December 1, 2017 / 7:52 pm

    Totally agree and great tips!

  5. Merkitty Blog
    December 2, 2017 / 3:45 pm

    So useful! I hate saying no, or sometimes struggle with what to say to certain things.. so this is very handy. Thanks.

  6. Danielle Alexa
    December 2, 2017 / 9:38 pm

    This is such a great post with incredibly advice and I will be taking much of it on board!Danielle xx

    • Hayley Hall
      December 5, 2017 / 8:09 pm

      Hope it helps you!

  7. Melanie
    December 3, 2017 / 3:03 am

    Great advice.

  8. Rosa Fairfield
    December 5, 2017 / 4:57 pm

    Oh wow, you are such an expert at this. I really need to learn to start saying no. I'm starting to do stuff that isn't worth my time, just because I'm worried about saying no.

    • Hayley Hall
      December 5, 2017 / 8:09 pm

      Never worry about saying no – most people ask things they wouldn't do themselves, so just flip it around!

  9. Nital Shah
    December 6, 2017 / 8:39 pm

    This post was super! It can still be hard at times but you need to do whats best for yourself!

  10. Sequinist
    December 7, 2017 / 10:23 pm

    I've read this post about 5 times; it is fantastic. It is such good simple advice, but my goodness, it is stuff I completely forget on a daily basis. Thank you for the very articulate reminder! xx

  11. Asbestos Lawyer Philadelphia PA
    December 15, 2017 / 4:37 am

    There's no way we can do ALL THE THINGS that are expected of us without going crazy. Learning to say no is key to maintaining balance.

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