Boss Lady

How to get better at saying no (yes, it’s possible).


This guide outlines strategies for saying no with more confidence and assurance.

If you’re anything like most women, saying ‘no’ can feel not just uncomfortable but downright daunting. We often worry about disappointing others, damaging relationships, or being labeled as uncooperative or uncommitted. 

The pressure to please, prove ourselves, and excel in our professional endeavours can make declining requests or opportunities seem like an impossible task. Yet, in the midst of this struggle, lies a profound realisation: saying no is not a sign of weakness but an empowering act of self-care and prioritisation. 

Take it from me, a woman who has faced huge challenges and learned the importance of saying no in both personal and professional contexts. Throughout my journey as a disruptor in the occupational therapy industry, I have come to understand the transformative power of this small but mighty word.

In 2012, I founded Australia’s first and only occupational therapy franchise business—ActivOT. At the time, franchising in allied health was virtually unheard of. Come to think of it, it still is! However, I was determined to create a support system for occupational therapists while delivering better outcomes for our clients.

Why saying no is important

Building ActivOT was no easy feat. I had to navigate countless demands on my time, balance the responsibilities of single parenthood, and overcome my own health challenges (including a near-death experience). In the face of adversity, I discovered that saying no was not only necessary but liberating.

By learning to set boundaries and prioritise my own well-being, I was able to focus on what truly mattered. Saying no allowed me to allocate my time and energy thoughtfully, avoiding burnout and pursuing the path that aligned with my values and goals.

Now, I want to share the lessons I’ve learned with you. It’s time to shed the fear and discomfort surrounding saying no, and embrace the transformative power of saying no with confidence and conviction.

Here are my go-to strategies for mastering the art of saying no (with confidence and grace). 

Clarify your why 

Before embarking on your journey to becoming a ‘no expert’, it’s essential to be clear on your ‘why’. Reflect on your values, goals, and aspirations, and recognise that by saying yes to everything, you risk diluting your focus and losing sight of what truly matters.

Embracing the power of saying no enables you to protect your time and energy for the things that align with your purpose and make your heart sing.

Outsource what doesn’t align 

Recognise that you don’t have to do everything by yourself. One effective strategy for saying no is to delegate or outsource tasks that don’t require your unique skills or expertise.

Ask yourself, do I have to do this or could someone else? Confidently pass it on, knowing it will be completed efficiently and effectively. This frees up your time for activities that truly deserve your attention and passion.

Practise saying no

Just like any skill, saying no becomes easier with practice. Take the time to say it out loud to yourself, experimenting with different phrases that suit your style. Having a repertoire of ready-to-use responses ensures you won’t be caught off guard or pressured into commitments you’re not comfortable with. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • “That task will be completed more efficiently/effectively by [name or team].”
  • “As much as I would love to help out, I have xyz priorities/commitments at the moment.”
  • “Thank you for thinking of me. I am honoured to be asked, but I think this opportunity might be better suited to xyz instead.” 

People pleasing and its consequences

While it may be tempting to please everyone around us, it often comes at the cost of neglecting our own goals and well-being. Recognise that people-pleasing can distract us from our purpose and hinder our progress.

Embrace the fact that setting boundaries is essential for personal growth and achieving your mission. Remember, saying no isn’t selfish; it’s an act of self-care and self-respect.

Embrace asking for assistance 

Getting better at saying no also involves developing the courage to ask for support when needed. Instead of shouldering everything, reach out to others and invite them to contribute.

People generally appreciate being asked. You’re also giving them the opportunity to openly say no if they’re not in a position to help. By creating a mutually supportive environment, you strengthen your relationships and foster a sense of collaboration.

Saying no is not about being unkind or shutting doors—it’s about setting healthy boundaries and prioritising what truly matters to you. By understanding your ‘why’, outsourcing non-essential tasks, practising assertiveness, and embracing collaboration, you can become more confident in saying no while maintaining warm and engaging relationships.

So, start embracing the power of ‘no’ and unlock the possibilities it brings for a more purposeful and fulfilling life and a more focussed and successful business.

Helen Whait is an award-winning occupational therapist, an innovator and the founder of ActivOT, Australia’s first occupational therapy franchise which helps occupational therapists become successful business owners.


About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

Recommended for you