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5 Easy Ways to Shake Your Pushover Reputation

5 Easy Ways to Shake Your Pushover Reputation

BY Staff

5 Easy Ways to Shake Your Pushover Reputation

Has anyone else noticed how social media has been shoving light, positivity, and the word “yes” down our throats recently?

I’m all for spreading happiness and optimism around, but there’s a time and place for everything.

Sometimes, the word no is absolutely necessary, but it’s becoming harder and harder to use with the amount of Pollyannas spawned online.

The truth is, though, having the ability to say ‘no’ to friends, family, and co-workers is more beneficial than you think (so, it’s time to learn to use it).


Using the word No at work can boost your productivity according to Positive Influence Coaching: “When you say yes when you really want to say no, time is wasted because you spend the majority of the time thinking about the commitment that you made instead of taking action. Productivity is directly tied to your ability to make effective decisions.”

Using the word No allows you to feel happier and healthier, which sounds like an oxymoron but it’s true according to the smart folks over at the Mayo Clinic. In an article on stress relief, saying no is one of the top concerns on their list because “when you’re overcommitted and under too much stress, you’re more likely to feel run-down and possibly get sick.”

Using the word No creates opportunities in your life. When you’re no longer obligated to do things you don’t want to do, you open room up in your life for things that will make you feel inspired and positive.

So, now that we know all of the amazing benefits that can come with learning to decline invitations we don’t want, how exactly do you firmly say no without creating awkward tension?

1) Keep your “no” short, simple, and firm

Avoid giving too many details into why you’re saying no. Avoid conversations like this:

“Hey! We don’t have enough volunteers for the company softball game this weekend, would you mind helping out?”

“Oh, sorry, but I can’t because I actually have plans to take my kids to the theme park this week.”

“Oh! This game is very kid-friendly. Why don’t you bring the kiddos along? My kids will be there as well so they can all play at the park together!”

See, what happened there? When you give excuses you give the other person a chance to wiggle around your reasoning.

Try this short and sweet decline instead:

“Hey! We don’t have enough volunteers for the company softball game this weekend, would you mind helping out?”

“I can’t do this weekend, but I’ll let you know if anything changes before then.”

It’s short, simple, and leaves zero wiggle room for the other person to try and squeeze a yes out of you.

2) Take your time

People tend to do one of two things when caught off guard with a request:

1) Blurt out yes just because they can’t come up with an excuse fast enough

2) Come up with a hasty lame excuse that’s clearly a lie, making it incredibly uncomfortable for all parties involved

Instead of doing either of these 2 awkward responses, buy yourself time to decide whether or not you actually want to say yes or no. If you’ve thought about it and the answer is still no, then craft a thoughtful response as to why you’re declining.

“Hey, I’m really overloaded this week. I hate to ask, but could you come in on Saturday and finish up some of my work? I’d do it myself but I promised the wife we’d go on a trip this weekend.”

“I’ll need to check my schedule first before I can make any commitments. I’ll let you know by the end of the day.”

Huffington Post says that when you do decline things to “try to say NO as graciously as you can.”

“I’d really like to help out, but I’m booked solid with other projects for the next two weeks. I’ll let you know if anything changes and I can give you a hand.”

3) Don’t say yes just to be nice

Hurting people’s feelings sucks. People will tend to go along with something they really don’t want to just to be nice, but this just leaves them overwhelmed and even resentful. So, never say yes just to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. 

Psychologist Eva Glasrud says that most people “overestimate the cost of saying no,” meaning we would rather avoid declining invitations because it seems aggressive, which why some people feel the need to take on anything that is asked of them in the workplace.

This idea that no is aggressive is just all in your head, though. As social creatures, we tend to do things to avoid conflict. So saying no to a co-worker isn’t going to make him attack you in any way. He’ll probably just say “ok” and find someone else to ask.

4) Don’t let flattery fool you into saying yes

Sometimes, the person asking will try to get you to say yes by flattering you.

“I know you said you’re too busy to help my team out on that presentation, but we just have to have you! You’re the best one in the office with that kind of stuff.”

When this happens, simply thank him for the compliment (avoid the temptation to toss in a self-deprecating joke) and stay firm on your reason for declining.

Say this:

“Ha. Thanks, man. That’s really good to hear, but I still can’t do it. I’m working on 3 other projects at the moment and I just don’t have the time.”

Don’t say this:

“Oh come on. A 4th grader could make a better presentation than I do! Haha. Maybe I can help out if I have time. I’ll let you know.”

5) Offer alternatives

If they really seem like they’re in a bind on a project, try to offer alternatives:

  • I’d like to help but I can’t start on it until Monday. Will that work for you?
  • I can’t create the presentation because of another project I’m working on, but I can definitely edit it once you’re done.
  • I actually can’t do that right now, but if you’d like I can send you the outlines that I always use for my presentations. They’re really thorough and easy to follow.


1. Have you ever been stuck in an uncomfortable situation where you wanted to say no but couldn’t?

2. Does saying no bring you happiness or more stress than just obliging others?

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