The Art of Saying No


Like you, I get frustrated with my schedule. I’m always “busy,” I don’t have enough time, and there is so much more to do. But can I tell you a secret, friend?

>>Nothing is in your iCal or planner that you didn’t put there.<<

Often, we fall victim to our to-do list, claiming that we don’t know how it got this way. It’s like a train driving full force and we can’t stop it. But you can.

The answer is saying NO. That’s what we’re chatting about today, my friend, but first it starts with setting boundaries.

Setting Boundaries

I think a lot of people think of boundaries as this huge, horrible wall that shuts people out. We imagine stacking up brick after brick to “protect” our time, claiming it’s “self care” but really all we’re doing is isolating ourselves. Let’s be real, have you ever thought of setting boundaries like that? I wouldn’t blame you, because I was the same way.

I used to start appointment-setting conversations with “What time works for you?” It took me literally years of taking calls at the most inconvenient hours for me to realize I resented my clients for their time choices. But I was resenting them for walking right into a door that I had opened for them! It wasn’t their fault they booked appointments with me on the weekends, I invited them to pick a day and time!  Once I realized it was on me, everything changed.

I started saying in emails, “I’d love to get on the phone with you this week to answer any questions you may have! This week, I am available Thursday between 3 and 5. Do you have a few minutes within those time frames to chat?”

I expected a fiery response, right? Like, I expected someone to see that I just plopped a big pile of bricks between us, turning on their heel and walking away. But you know what happened?

“Thursday at 4:30 would be great! Talk to you then!”

Like I said before… Everything changed. Instead of sending 10 chain emails going back and forth about what times worked in both of our schedules, the appointment was scheduled in minutes. I realized that people actually thrive with boundaries--they’re thankful for them. They’re comfortable, you know what I mean?

Other times I’ve set boundaries in my business:

  • Not answering emails late at night or on weekends

  • Being clear and firm about my packages and pricing

  • Not giving out my personal phone number to clients

How To Say No

I get it. Setting boundaries and saying no is hard, it’s scary, you’re afraid you’ll offend someone or let them down. It’s a tricky, I know! But...

>>Let me say it again, in case you forgot: NOTHING is on your calendar that YOU didn’t put there.<<

Stop acting like a victim and start saying NO to the things you actually don’t want to do. You’re an adult, you’re not “obligated” to do anything, and you need to have boundaries to protect your time and your mental health.

But…. I don’t necessarily think you need to be a bitch about it, you know what I’m saying!?

So let’s talk about how to gracefully say no, in a way that leaves your recipient feeling good about the interaction at the end. Ready?

My favorite way to say “no” is by starting with a compliment, saying no forcefully, and ending with a compliment. This lessens the blow of the no and leaves the recipient feeling like it was a positive interaction, while maintaining your priorities.

Let’s break it down with 2 examples. The first is what I say to those that ask me to be a virtual assistant in their business full or part-time. I work project-based but I get this question multiple times per week anyway. So this is what I say:

Hey girl!

Thank you so much for reaching out and congratulations on taking the leap and searching for a Virtual Assistant to help you work more ON and less IN your business. :) This is a huge step and something to be proud of!

I know you filled out the contact form on my VA for a day site, so you probably saw that I specialize in helping girl bosses create automated systems for their business. This basically means I will help you for one week--usually a Monday-Friday, to create a Dubsado account and then teach you how to use the systems I set up on your own. Is that what you'd like help with?

I ask because from your messages, it sounded like you were looking for more full or part-time help in your business, which I am unavailable for. As I pursue being a mentors for virtual service providers, build my personal brand, and expand my role on team Jasmine Star, VA for a day remains project-based. :)

However, if you are looking for someone to help you on a more regular basis, if you'd like to send me over some information about the tasks you are looking for help with, I'd be happy to pass your email along to a few VA's that have gone through my Mentorship Program. These gals have all been personally trained by me and I recommend them with the utmost confidence. :)

If I am mistaken and you ARE looking for someone to just help you set up a Dubsado account and create systems for your business, I'd be happy to keep our appointment! I just want to make sure you're getting exactly the kind of help you're looking for.

If you have any questions, please let me know! :)



Is there ANYone that could possibly read that and think “Wow, what a bitch”?? No. No one.

In fact, I almost always receive gushing responses back, saying “Thank you so much for taking the time to clarify your business, I’d love recommendations of virtual assistants from your program, I really appreciate it!”

Now, you might be thinking “What if I’m saying no to something that I just don’t want or have time to do?” Like, you could do it, but you don’t want to and you don’t have a good excuse like the VA for a day being project-based thing.

THESE are the things that people typically end up saying yes to, then regretting and resenting later. Like telling someone you’ll bake brownies for a party even though you know you don’t like baking, but you don’t have a “good” excuse not to. Time for example 2!

This is a template I have in my canned emails of Dubsado that is for when people ask me to do something I don’t want to do. I leave it pretty vague and will usually fill in the blanks per request. Sometimes it’s someone asking me to check out their website and make suggestions for edits for free, sometimes they ask for free business advice or even a few minutes to “pick my brain.” Here’s what I say when I get one of these:

Hey girl!

Thank you so much for reaching out and I so appreciate you trusting me to [insert request here]. It is seriously so exciting and such a commendable act for you to be starting a business and I hope you are proud of this accomplishment!

Unfortunately due to prior commitments, I cannot proofread your website. I’m sorry to say that because I’m sure it would be wonderful, but I wish you the best of luck in your business. Please keep me updated on your progress and I look forward to following your journey!

Cheers to your success,


I like this one because not only does it start and end on a positive note, but it also leaves absolutely no room for negotiation. There was no “I don’t THINK I can proofread” it was “I CANNOT proofread”. There wasn’t a “Please let me know I can do anything to help” or something at the end, instead it was just “keep me updated on your progress.” Clear. Concise.

Have you ever felt like you’ve said no to someone, but then they tried to wiggle a yes out of you anyway? You were pissed, right? You’re like “I told them no already!” Nope, no you did not.

We were taught in elementary school that no means no and if someone, especially a colleague or client over an EMAIL, did not understand that your message was a NO, then you did not communicate that clearly enough.

Do you sense a pattern here? That everything is always on you? I apologize if you feel like I’m attacking you and I know some of you are thinking in our society today that it could be argued some people do not know “no means no.” But here’s the thing: I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about you, right now, in your business.

So many people feel like they’re a victim to their schedule and it drives me nuts. I’m recording this episode right now at 9:30 the night before it airs and I’m not bitter about the fact that i have to do a podcast episode--I’m just accepting that I didn’t do it earlier! I prioritized other items on my to-do list and that’s okay!

Everyone is worried that they are going to say no, and someone is going to flip out on them. But friend, I send those emails multiple times per WEEK and I have never gotten a negative response. How could I? They’re positive, short, and to the point. They do not waste anyone’s time because my boundaries are clear from the beginning. In fact, people are grateful for them because, listen carefully:

>>Every time you say no to something, you’re giving someone permission to do the same.<<

Every time you say no, you’re saying yes to something else. And that’s showing your recipient how to do that, too. If someone reaches out to you and says they want to have a call on the weekend and you respond that you spend time with your family or take time to relax on the weekends, you are not only saying YES to the self care but you’re showing them what’s important in your life. You’re allowing them to think about prioritizing what you did--making them think, “Maybe I should take off on the weekends, too.”

So friends, did this help you learn the art of saying no? I sure hope so. If you learned something today, would you please drop a comment on my last @coffeewithkristi IG post and say hello? I’d love to hang out with you over there and cheer you on for being so brave and putting yourself first!

Say no to all things that don’t serve you, doll, and say yes to the things that light you up! The world needs to see you shine.

Kristi Monte