How to say no and to mean it


Saying no and setting clear boundaries is still a huge struggle for many women. And yet in order for us to follow the worldwide calling to step up and lead – and make our highest contribution to the world, we have to start embracing this tiny, two letter word “no”.


Where do we start?

Let’s start by taking a look at the sources of our struggle with “no”. Then analyse and understand when we need to say “no”.

Here are a few “yes” or “no” questions:

  • Would you like a coffee?
  • Are you available to work this Saturday?
  • Can you pick up the kids from school today?
  • Can you complete the project by Monday?

Pretty straight forward. But…

What if I’m a tea drinker and the person offering me a coffee is my future boss and I want to make a great first impression?
What if the person asking me to work on Saturday is the mean head teacher at my children’s school?


Women are context hackers

You get the gist. Each question by itself is pretty straight forward. It’s the context which makes our “no’s” more difficult. As women we are context hackers. We are continuously scanning and checking for signs of agreement and disagreement in others. Too many of us have been raised to become pleasers and conflict-avoiders – perhaps polite as children, not as useful as adults.


Why we become Pleasers & Avoiders

Why are women so invested in keeping relationships happy and conflict free? Why do we tend to care so much about what people think, preferring to please others, avoid conflict and give up part of ourselves rather than potentially upsetting anyone?

According to Tara Mohr, the author of “Playing Big”, there are six reasons why we care so much about what other people think:

  1. Relational focus – whether by nature, nurture, or both, many women are very relationship-oriented
  2. Heightened awareness of others’ reactions (a host of studies have found that as a group, women are more skilled than men at reading people’s facial expressions and body language)
  3. A history of survival through likeability and social influence
  4. Fear of personal attack
  5. Cultural focus on girls’ and women’s appearances (the explicit message women receive being – ‘be beautiful, be thin, be attractive and smile’. What this says to us at a deeper level is that how others perceive us is what matters)
  6. Good-girl conditioning.

No wonder we struggle. It’s in our upbringing, societal expectations and running through our veins for centuries.


There is another way – Long Live The Queen

By tapping into the power of the Queen Archetype we can embrace the benefits of “no”, boundaries, and clear communication for the benefits of ourselves and the people around us.

To paraphrase Brené Brown: You might no longer be as sweet as you used to be, but you’ll be much more loving.


Saying “yes” when you don’t mean it, and giving when you don’t want to, is like loading a slingshot with resentment, anger, frustration, and hatred.

Sooner or later this awesome load of contempt will be shot at the next best deserving or more likely undeserving person. Your kids or the idiot in the car in front of you, just to get rid of our frustrations and clear the air. This won’t solve the problem at its source.


Questions to ask yourself

So connect with your balanced Queen energy and ask yourself:

  • What do I stand for?
  • What are the rules in my ‘Queendom’? (they don’t have to be right, they simply have to be yours.)
  • What will I tolerate and what not?
  • How can I serve my realm the best?
  • Where should I focus my energy, time and money to reach my vision? And where not?
  • Which areas should I delegating?
  • Where should I get council?
  • Who do I want around my ‘round table’ to ensure the ‘’queendom’’ becomes or remains a safe, prosperous and content place?


Once you’re clear on these, saying “no” will become much easier. You will simply apply your set rules and values against any situation. Being clear on what you stand for will make you realise that by not saying NO you are preventing yourself from reaching your goals and creating the vision you have for yourself and others.


Curious how to address your own unique challenge with the energy and clarity of our female archetypes? Don’t hesitate to book a complimentary coaching session to gain a different perspective.  


Let’s make a difference. Together.


Manuela Damant
Visionary Collective Leader

At Azkua we are on a mission to turn businesses and organisations into a force for good. And we believe that it is professional women, who will be at the forefront of this transformation. Purpose driven, caring, grounded and influential women. Women like YOU!