One of the most common things women share with us when talking about their relationship with confidence is communication; the tendency to say “yes” to everything, despite the little voice inside saying “no, no, no!”

So why do so many of us say yes when we really want to say no? And what is the cost of saying yes all the time?

Let’s start with the ‘why’

It comes down to a few key things:

  • Being taught as a child to be ‘good’ and to be quiet and do everything we were asked
  • Developing a habit early in our career of saying yes because it created opportunities and led to career progression
  • Being worried about what others would think ie we are not a team player or not committed
  • And finally…. this is the big one: not wanting to disappoint or let others down.

The cost though is HUGE: overwhelm, regret, dishonesty, poor performance, disappointment. The list goes on, and on and on, which means learning to say no is an important skill.

Here are a few things to reflect on to begin to master the art of saying no with confidence:

Is yes worth it?

Double down on knowing your value and question what you are being asked to do in terms of opportunity cost. What are you missing out on if you say yes? Be discerning, reflect on what is important and as this article suggests, create space for what matters to you rather than drowning in ‘busyness’.

Personal brand

We have previously written about the importance of consciously cultivating our personal brand. Having this front and centre when making decisions can make saying no a lot easier. Consistently saying yes is unsustainable and can lead to overwhelm and burnout. If our capacity to deliver work at an optimum level is impacted by saying yes too often, not only are we disappointing ourselves and our colleagues, our personal brand takes a hit when we are considered a poor performer or unreliable as a result.

Get clear

When we take the time to understand what we are really worried about if we say no and explore the stories we unconsciously tell ourselves that make us say yes; we move closer to having free choice – the conscious decision of yes or no. This insight gives us clarity into why we’ve made the decision to say no and allows us to confidently explain it to others.


There is no denying that sometimes saying yes opens doors. However, the more senior we become the greater the cost – both professionally and personally. At this point, having the confidence and ability to communicate ‘no’ shows that we are in the driver’s seat of our career and choosing to acknowledge that we simply cannot do it all.