May 25, 2021

How To Say NO

So, let’s talk about saying no.

Honestly? It sucks.

It’s exhausting to continually have to opt out of things “everyone else” has no problem with. Piling into a hotel room with 3 other people to save money? Great! Driving back Monday morning and having a work call that afternoon? No problemo!

But nobody’s talking about how HARD it is to say no. The ‘no’ flag gets waved around as an emblem of empowerment, a not-so-subtle 🖕🏼 to anyone who dares to ask you for something.

The message is that your happiness matters more than anyone else’s—and anyone who feels guilt or uncertainty about saying no, is a sissy. (cough cough patriarchal bullshit cough cough)

Saying no isn’t enough—you have to say no *unapologetically*. You have to say no without feeling even a tiny bit bad about it.

I’m fed up with this low-level pressure to stop caring about how other people feel.

We’re made to feel silly for caring, like we’re “doing it wrong,” because if we were doing it “right,” then other people’s reactions wouldn’t get to us so much. We’re supposed to float through life on a hazy cloud of bliss and gratitude, never letting anyone’s ‘low-vibe’ energy pierce our bubble.

Fuck that.

If you say no to something because you know you’ll end up hyperventilating on the bathroom floor, that’s absolutely the right call.

If someone in your life is disappointed about that and wishes you weren’t so sensitive, then that’s understandable too.

And if their feelings affect YOUR feelings, and then YOU feel guilty and also wish you weren’t so sensitive—

Well then, congratulations, you’re a human person.

Saying no sucks and it’s super hard. Letting people down also sucks, and if you’re an empathetic person, it won’t ever, ever feel good, even when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re doing the right thing.


1. Yes, we need to get more practiced at saying no…
2. But that doesn’t mean it won’t still suck, because it will.

Here are some templates to help make it a tiny bit easier.

Image text: How to say NO (like, the actual words)Image text: Conferences, Speaking Gigs, Networking Events, etc: "Oh man, that sounds so fun. I won't be able to make it this time, take lots of pics for me!" You can keep it simple here. This kind of stuff is usually less intimate and doesn't require an explanation.Image text: Conferences, Speaking Gigs, Networking Events, etc: Wow, [name], what a cool opportunity. Thank you so much for thinking of me! I love the work that you're doing, but unfortunately this isn't the best fit for me right now. Let's definitely stay connected though; I'm really interested to see where [your work] goes in the future.Image text: Social Stuff: Parties, Weddings, Nights Out: I've intentionally set aside this weekend as a downtime weekend because we have XYZ coming up, (this is for your loved ones who can handle the truth, or they can't but you keep hittin' em with it anyway because you're a rabble rouser like me) Image text: Social Stuff: Parties, Weddings, Nights Out: You can also just go with... We already have plans! (or) Ahhh, that doesn't really interest me. I'm sorry!Image text: Client Asks, Coffee Dates, Trades: Hey [client]! I agree that we need to work on [whatever they're trying to add to the project] ASAP–that would be outside the scope of what we originally agreed on, though. Do you want to talk next week so we can figure out how we want to do this? Image text: Client Asks, Coffee Dates, Trades: Oh my gosh, I would love to hang out with you. For real. This month is super intense for me, would you be okay if we pushed it back to May? You should obviously only use this if you actually DO want to hang out with them. Image text: Client Asks, Coffee Dates, Trades: I love that idea! I don't do trades anymore, because my copywriting work just doesn't lend itself to that type of arrangement. But if you want to, you know, trade *money*, let's do that!Image text: The idea is (and sadly, it's not a very popular one) to be NICE to people. You can have boundaries without being unfeeling. You can turn down work without shaming someone for not being able to afford you. That's an unnecessary flex. -Sam


Samantha Pollack

About Sam

Samantha Pollack is  a Positioning Strategist & Copywriter who creates powerful brand personalities and compelling marketing copy for service providers, creatives, BIPOC women, AuDHD folks, activists, queers, weirdos, and other smart people.

She's known for her ability to truly capture my clients' voice and craft messaging that makes THEIR clients feel seen, safe, and excited AF to get to work.

Sam believes the most important asset in your business is your audience’s trust, and is working to build a new marketing paradigm rooted in honesty, kindness, and slowing the f*ck down—while making (and paying) sustainable wages. 

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