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Ep #4: How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty: The Yes Dilemma

Updated: Jul 10

How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

In this week's episode of Billable Hour Burnout, we’re diving into a topic that resonates with many professionals, especially women: The Yes Dilemma - How to Say No More with Less Guilt.

Why Saying No is Hard

We often struggle with saying no due to various reasons, such as societal expectations and personal guilt. Particularly for women in professional environments, the fear of being penalized or taken for granted is real. Understanding the importance of boundaries is crucial here, as it helps in protecting our time and energy from being overextended.

Importance of boundaries

Understanding Boundaries

Boundaries are essential for maintaining balance and well-being. They are the space between our values and the rest of the world, protecting our time, energy, and mental health. Recognizing the importance of boundaries is the first step toward a healthier and more sustainable professional life, contributing significantly to our personal well-being.

Practical Tips for Saying No

Now, let’s get comfortable with saying no. Here are a few ideas on how you can say no:

  1. Say the Word No Be direct: “No, I can’t make it,” or “No, I cannot take on that extra task.”

  2. Know Your Reason Understand why you are saying no. This clarity helps you stay firm in your decision.

  3. Be Clear and Firm Avoid ambiguity: “I will not be able to attend,” rather than, “I don’t think I can make it”.

  4. Thank the Person Acknowledge the invitation or offer: “Thank you for considering me”.

  5. No is Not Forever Indicate future possibilities: “I can’t this time, but please consider me for future opportunities”.

  6. Be Assertive and Affectionate Combine clarity with kindness: “I appreciate the offer, but I have to decline to maintain my current workload”.

How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

The Importance of Boundaries in Professional Settings

In professional environments, setting boundaries helps you manage workload and maintain quality. It’s crucial for long-term success and well-being. Understanding the importance of boundaries enables you to create a work-life balance that supports both your professional ambitions and personal well-being.

For more on dealing with difficult situations at work, you might find my article helpful on how to deal with a hard boss.

Reflection and Practice

Take a moment to identify areas in your life where you feel overwhelmed. Practice saying no in these situations to create space for your priorities. Embracing the importance of boundaries will empower you to make decisions that align with your values and goals, ultimately enhancing your personal well-being.

Saying no also helps you manage challenging clients more effectively. Check out this tips on building resilience at work.

For additional insights, check out these case studies from Harvard Business Review on how to say no to taking on more work.

How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Take the Next Step

Learning to say no is a powerful skill that benefits both you and those around you. If you liked this episode and want more tips, visit Acheloa Wellness for more resources and information about my coaching program, Freedom.

Click here to join my newsletter called "Billable-Hour Burnout". It's for hard-working women in accounting, law, finance and consulting. This is a one-stop resource for you to have the career you desire without the sacrifice.


What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Understanding the Yes Dilemma

  • Benefits of Saying No

  • How to Set Boundaries

  • Tactical Tips for Saying No

  • Practical Examples of Saying No

  • Maintaining Win-Win Boundaries

Watch the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

Hello, everybody. We are live in all of the places. Hello, LinkedIn. Hello, Instagram. Hello, YouTube. It's Thursday, and I'm coming in with another Billable Hour Burnout episode. How's everybody doing? How's your week going?

All right. We are locked and loaded. Let's do this. Today is all about what I'm calling the Yes Dilemma: How to Say No More with Less Guilt. Some of you may have seen that I'm doing a panel tomorrow on this topic, but I wanted to talk about it today. This episode will be different from tomorrow's panel, so if you're joining me live, you are safe.

If you need helpful tactical advice that gives your career zest without stress and overwhelm, you're in the right place. If you want to finally enjoy the life you spent decades building, you are in the right place. Today, if you're here, it means you're ready to experience more balance, ease, and confidence and make it happen without quitting your job or burning down your life.

My name is Lauren Baptiste, former Big Four auditor turned life coach, helping the hardest-working women have it all without the stress. On the show, I'm sharing simple tactical advice and mindset strategies so you can thrive as a modern accountant, consultant, or attorney.

I've been doing a lot of inner work on my self-concept, who I am, and the impact I'm making on my clients, profession, and community. It's been a beautiful up-leveling. It doesn't mean it's all sunshine and rainbows, but I'm starting to feel the ripple effect of this work. This is why I'm here every week because I love it. I love the mission I'm on. I want to make sure everyone has the tools they need to thrive. When I burnt out 11 years ago, there weren't all the tools and resources available, and that's why I've changed my career to make sure you have everything you need.

Even if you're an accountant, attorney, or consultant, and you think this doesn't apply to you, it does. I'm catering this content specifically to you. I am still learning the idea of the yes dilemma, always saying yes and not saying no. I've made a ton of progress since I started this work, but we still make mistakes. We're still learning. I talked about a situation where I flaked on a friend because I wanted to focus on quality exchanges. I decided to say no in that instance, and I believe it will make our next hangout better.

The Yes Dilemma is common, especially among professional women. We have to start somewhere, so today I'm going to teach you some tactics and tips.

Let’s dive in. This comes from Ashley, a vice president in California. She said, "After working with Lauren for a few months, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. The mental block that once had me feeling stuck has dissolved, and I have more mental space and motivation to set and work towards my life goals."

When we start to lean into our boundaries, we can make the workweek feel as spacious and fun as the weekend. In order to do that, we may need to experience some challenging feelings and emotions. Adam Grant shared a quote, "It's time to stop dumping thankless tasks on women. Women get asked more than men to serve on committees, plan events, and take notes. They are more likely to get penalized if they say no and taken for granted if they say yes." This resonates with many women in the profession.

I was talking with a client, a partner at a law firm, who is recognized as the doer and the team player at her firm. While this is great, it can also keep you stuck. As women, we need to set boundaries and pull ourselves up. Boundaries are the space between me and my values and the rest of the world. They protect our energy and time.

Boundaries aren’t for other people. They are for you. If you need to leave by five o'clock to pick up your kids, it’s on you to uphold that boundary. Communicate it clearly. It's not about others respecting your boundaries but about you enforcing them.

Now, let’s get comfortable with saying no. Here are a few ideas on how you can say no:

Say the Word No: Be direct. “No, I can’t make it,” or “No, I cannot take on that extra task.”

Know Your Reason: Understand why you are saying no. This clarity helps you stay firm in your decision.

Be Clear and Firm: Avoid ambiguity. Be clear: “I will not be able to attend.”
Thank the Person: Acknowledge the invitation or offer. “Thank you for considering me.”

No is Not Forever: Indicate future possibilities: “I can’t this time, but please consider me for future opportunities.”

Be Assertive and Affectionate: Combine clarity with kindness. Be assertive yet affectionate.

For example, if you don’t want to attend a baby shower, you can say, “Thank you for the invitation. Unfortunately, I can't make it. I need that day to rest, but I would love to catch up one-on-one another time.” This way, you are clear, respectful, and considerate.

Learning to say no is not rude; it’s necessary for your well-being. It helps free you from guilt and energy drain while respecting others' time and energy.

Thank you so much for the invitation. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to make it. I just have so much on my plate right now, and I need that Saturday off, but I would really love for us to catch up one-on-one, maybe a virtual coffee when it feels good for you. Let me know when it's good for you and we can circle back.

"Thank you so much for thinking me for this new project. I appreciate that you considered me over a lot of other candidates. I'm going to be honest, it's not going to work out for me right now because I'm at capacity with my hours. I'm working on three other projects and I don't want to sacrifice quality. But please keep me in the loop for the next one. Let's circle back in a couple of months when I finish these three other projects and see what's available next, because I'd love to get involved."

When you say it directly, clearly, and with a little assertiveness, it might feel crass or curt, but it's likely the middle road where, as long as there's affection and directness, it's perfect.

My clients learn how to set, enforce, and maintain win-win boundaries. Boundaries that work for me. Boundaries that work for my team. So I'm still able to show up as my best professional self or my best self at home and there's respect on the other side. There's reciprocation on the other side. It's a win-win. The power of getting this right is priceless. And it starts with you saying no. It starts with you maybe feeling a little bit uncomfortable. It starts with you probably annoying a couple of people because they're used to you being the Yes Woman.

So this is my nugget for today. Let's get comfortable with saying no. Take a moment and think about something in your life that's coming up that's giving you that "meh" feeling. That might be the perfect lowest hanging fruit opportunity to say No.

DM me. I want to know, when you say no, how did it go? How did it feel? What did it result in? It might ruffle others' feathers, but when you learn how to enforce boundaries, when you learn how to say no, everything changes.

Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you like what you heard, drop a comment and let me know what you think. You can find me on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, or wherever you hang out. I can't wait to hear how you're enjoying the pod. Tell me what's landing, and I love to hear what questions are coming up because this content is for you.

Thank you so much for listening. If you want more information about me, Lauren Baptiste, Acheloa Wellness, my company, or my one-on-one coaching program, Freedom, visit Thank you so much for spending a few minutes with me while we learn how to say no and embody it, making it feel like a big yes.

All right, everybody. I'll talk to you next time.

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