Giving Yourself Permission to Say No

Aisle Planner Permission to Say No
Photo courtesy Jen Wojcik Photography

This month, we’re focusing on creating balance in our lives, and a big part of striking that elusive work/play balance comes from something most of us hate to do: saying NO. Whether it’s declining an invitation to a birthday party, or letting go of clients that aren’t the right fit, few things give me anxiety like having to turn people down. Today, then, I wanted to touch on the art of saying no and a few things to keep in mind when doing so. Read on…or don’t—the choice is always yours:

It’s Not Personal

One of the reasons we often say yes to things we don’t have the time for is to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. We have to learn to scrap this idea. Your friend is not their birthday party. The mom at your children’s school is not her non-profit. You are not declining the person as a friend, coworker or peer; you’re declining a very specific invitation for something that is completely separate from who they are as a person.

This may sound cold or detached, but you have to give yourself permission to take the personal out of it. When you’re invited to an event or asked to perform a task, stop thinking about what the person behind the invitation will think and, instead, focus on how that event or task does (or does not) fit into your goal of creating balance in your life. Learn to shift your focus from the person to the thing itself. As wedding planners, we’re well versed in niceties. Channel those skills—always decline invitations in a gracious, thoughtful manner. Handwritten notes or phone calls are always better than texts or emails if you can make the time.

Know Your Needs

Try looking at the art of saying no strictly from a “needs” perspective. Think about your lasting friendships. Chances are, the common thread between those few coveted relationships in your life is the idea that you both understand what the other needs. Some people need to talk on the phone with their best friend once a week. Others need to see each other regularly. Others need time to themselves.

When I decline an invitation, 50% of the time it comes from having another obligation to fill, and 50% of the time it simply comes from needing to take time for myself and for my family. This is perfectly fine. Just don’t lie about it. If you’re saying no to that charity event on Saturday night because you’ve had a long week and have hardly seen your children, say so. People will understand and respect you for it far more so than if you make up a half-baked, transparent excuse. Remember, we’re all human, and we all have needs that we have to prioritize. Declining something based on your personal needs is perfectly respectable.

Focus on Long-Term Business Goals

One of the hardest places to say no is in our professional lives. But, saying no in the work world can also reap the most benefits in the long run. Understand what it is you as a planner stand for. What are your values and goals? What types of events and clients are in line with those values and goals? Have clearly defined values statements, and learn to let go of the clients and events who don’t align with those.

While turning down a client often feels like turning down a needed paycheck, if you continually say yes to clients who aren’t in alignment with your long-term business goals, you’ll soon find those goals start to stray further and further out of reach. You need to create a portfolio that speaks to the planner you want to become and, in order to do so, you need clients who mirror those values and goals. This means setting your eye on long-term paychecks, rather than the ones that are right in front of you (as tempting as they may be).

Weddings are so emotionally charged, so believe me when I say I understand how hard it is to turn down clients—especially eager, lovely people who adore your work. But, if their vision or budget aren’t in line with what it is your business is working toward, you have to give yourself permission to politely, and graciously, decline.


Overall, saying no is about being honest and being true to your needs and the needs of your business. Everyone struggles with saying no, and everyone runs through excuse after excuse in their mind, hoping to come up with something that’s socially acceptable. But, remember, being honest, direct and gracious are always your best options. Keep your focus on the long-term goal of creating balance in your life, and your instincts will guide you from there. And, if all else fails, remember you can always say YES to a glass of well deserved wine.

About the Author

Gillian Griffith
Gillian Griffith

Gillian knows there’s nothing as deadly as a woman with good grammar, great nails and a strong backhand (think: tennis). She is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, where she spends the sunny days with her family, her Louisiana Catahoula pup and, her ultimate love, a 1939 typewriter.

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