No — Just Say It

Claire Shipman and Katty Kay

Claire Shipman and Katty Kay

It gets refreshingly simple actually.  That weekend assignment, no; those extra hours, no; that promotion with all the travel and increased responsibility, no.

By:  Claire Shipman and Katty Kay

Once you’ve tamed your inner-guilt monster, you are ready to welcome that most wonderful of words into your vocabulary. We’re certain you barely use it. But it’s a potent combination of two letters that could routinely save our sanity. Go ahead. Say it. You know the word we mean.


Are we simply allergic to it, terrified of the consequences? What do we really think will happen if it becomes a regular part of our speech? Maybe the world would be rocked by an Armageddon of hurt feelings? Perhaps our pictures would be blasted through cyberspace as modern-day Leona Helmsleys? Or worst of all, people might be — disappointed?

Maybe. But here’s the fundamental problem. When we are so eager to please everyone and avoid people being cross with us, we end up saying yes to a lot of things we don’t really want. This of course means we end up spending more time working than we really want.

“In the past I tended to be a ‘yes’ person,” Stephanie Hampton, the Marriott spokesperson told us. “I’d say ‘yes’ to just about anything and everything, in the belief that I was building a reputation for myself as a can-do, go-to person. I looked around and noticed that a lot of successful people don’t say ‘yes’ to everything; they are more strategic. They say ‘yes’ for a variety of reasons. True, sometimes it’s based on who’s doing the asking. But most of the time successful people choose to say ‘yes’ to strategic or value-added work. So now I think about whether a project will put ‘heads on beds’ or otherwise enhance the brand reputation of Marriott. if the answer is no, it’s usually just busywork, and I try to find a way to say ‘no’ without saying ‘no.'”

New York lawyer, Linda Brooks, says she still backslides. “I think people don’t like to be told no, so I have to get a thicker skin and resist the urge to please everyone, because I sit there and think, ‘oh my God he hates me now,’ and ‘he’s never going to give me another deal’ and ‘I’m sure the partners are going to vote next week to kick me out of the partnership because I said “no” to that deal.’ My head goes there. So it does take a bit of thickening of the skin. But it does get easier.”

You may not believe it now, but tossing off no will become second nature.  Once you’ve really set your goals, you will be much clearer about what you want to tackle and what you don’t want to take on. It gets refreshingly simple actually — that weekend assignment, no; those extra hours, no; that promotion with all the travel and increased responsibility, no. You will learn not just to say “no,” but also to think no, mean no, and act no.

And yes, employing it may mean you disappoint, anger, and annoy. But it will also mean you are happier, healthier, and more straightforward. It’s certainly a better situation for you and, also, therefore, for everyone in your life in the long run. Even the recipients of your nos!

About the Authors:

Claire Shipman and Katty Kay are authors of their new book Womenomics.

Claire Shipman is the senior national correspondent for ABC News’ Good Morning America and a regular on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Previously, Shipman was the White House correspondent for NBC news and a reporter for CNN in Moscow, where she earned multiple awards for her coverage of the demise of the Soviet Union. She currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.

Katty Kay is the Washington correspondent and anchor for BBC World News America. She is also a contributor on Meet the Press, The Charlie Rose Show, and The Chris Matthews Show, as well as a regular guest host for Diane Rehm on NPR. Kay grew up in the middle East and now lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and four children.

For more information, view Claire Shipman’s Web site .