The Power of No!

June 2, 2017

I was lucky enough to participate in a Women in Thought Leadership Panel last week, with Adele Blair of the Concierge Collective on the power of saying “no”. Why do women feel obliged to say yes to work, commitments and obligations which drain our time, resources and energy? Think about your current professional and personal workload – what could you say no to? Why do you say yes?

  1. We like to be liked

Many women are more likely to put the viewpoints and perspectives of others before their own for fear of causing offence, being difficult or simply being different. We aim for universal approval and then feel constrained and resentful when our own needs are not met. In a professional context, is being liked or being respected more important to you?

  1. We are told to always “lean in”!

The focus on resilience, leaning in and pushing for more opportunity, can put you at risk of forgetting to analyse and discriminate between good decisions and ones which are not the best use of your time. Sometimes, choosing to lean out, turn someone down and stay put are decisions which take the most courage and resilience. Being agile enough to take a risk does not mean saying yes to everything which is asked of you.

  1. We feel guilty

We sometimes feel the need to be accessible, available and open to everyone and everything which is asked of us or risk feeling guilty and as if we are letting people down.

The guilt of putting our own interests first is misplaced and unproductive. Focus on why you are making choices in a positive light. All decisions will have costs and benefits for yourself and for others and if you weigh them up fairly, there is no room for guilt.

  1. We don’t have a plan

Saying yes to everything can be a consequence of not having a clear professional vision or plan for your professional life. You accept everything, take all opportunities and are afraid of turning anything down because you don’t have a clear sense of what you are trying to achieve. When you are presented with a new idea, take the time to think about what it is you want to achieve, what your objectives are and whether the offer helps you to get closer to those goals.

We all have limited time, want to lead fulfilling and varied lives and have people and projects which rely on our presence. Being able to select and analyse opportunities and put your hand up for those which match your interests best is not selfish, it is putting your time and skills to best use and being true to those you work with. Put yourself on the other side – I would rather someone gave me an honest “no”, than a half-hearted or insincere “yes”!

Balveen Ajimal

Balveen is the Founder of Grace Street Consulting – advising on strategy, management, stakeholder engagement, legal, governance and strategic projects in the not-for- profit sector with a focus on advocacy for women.


She is on the Board of the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Foundation, a member of the Queensland Government Strategic Group: Towards Gender Parity, Women on Boards, a Mentor on SME innovation with Mentor Walks and is Queensland Ambassador for Endometriosis Australia.


Balveen’s new course “Ready to Board” helps women to achieve Board positions.


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