8 Successful Women Share Their Guilt-Free Strategies For Saying No

how to say no

Saying ‘yes’ is easy. But handling the aftermath — social exhaustion from an overscheduled life, half-assing stuff you really wanted to, well, whole-ass, missing out on other exciting opportunities — can be brutal. “What I’ve realized is that if you don’t say ‘no’ enough, you won’t have the time to say ‘yes’ to the things that you really want to do,” says Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica and FoundLA. “I call it letting go and letting in. You have to let go of those things that don’t speak to your heart and not worry that you let them go because something else will come to you to which you can say ‘yes.’”

While in Los Angeles to celebrate the Create & Cultivate 100 List, we talked to its honorees, including Wurwand, Tess Holliday, and Catt Sadler, to find out how they pass on the opportunities that won’t serve them in order to have more time for those that do. Below, their tips on how to say no and Shut. It. Down.

Prioritize your time

“I do say ‘no’ far more than I ever have — and it’s empowering. One of my team goals with my company and my family is higher expectations of myself and others, because time is so valuable and there are a million things that take away our time and productivity. So, I’m using saying ‘no’ to really focus on what’s meaningful.” — Catt Sadler, reporter and TV host, The Cattwalk

Be honest about your plans

“I’ll say, ‘I need to spend some time at home,’ and people get it. It’s not necessarily a shutdown — it’s the truth.” — Riawna Capri, co-founder Nine Zero One Salon, InCommon Beauty, and BeaYOUtiful Foundation

Ask them to check back later

“I’m usually just honest with people and say, ‘I don’t have the mental space to take that on right now. I’m happy to help if you check in with me on a later date.’” — Tess Holliday, model, body positivity advocate, and Eff Your Beauty Standards founder.

Keep it short and simple

“My response is simply, ‘No.’ It’s been said that you should have a quick no and a slow yes — think about what you’re going to say yes to and really quickly say no to what you don’t want to do.” — Emily Current, designer, The Great, Current/Elliott, and Emily + Merritt

Thank them, then move on

“I usually say, ‘Thank you for thinking of me. I’m unavailable at this time, but please think of me again.’ But now that I’ve told everybody that, I can’t use it. I’ll have to come up with another one!” — Tamara Mellon, co-founder of Tamara Mellon footwear

Don't beat around the bush

“I think you have to be firm. Sometimes we don't want people to think we’re not a nice person, so we’ll say we’ll say, 'I would love to, but I just can’t that week,’ and then they respond: ‘Okay, we’ll do it another week.' You have to be a little bit clearer and say something like, ‘I think that sounds like a wonderful project and I wish you every success, but it’s not something that I’m focusing on right now.’” — Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica and FoundLA

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