Stop Apologizing, Learn to Say 'No,' and 7 More Tips for Women's Success at Work

Mixed race businesswoman working at desk

By Betsy Myers

It took me a long time to learn the magic word: NO.

The next step was learning to say "no" without offering an excuse and/or apology.

To become a habit, this new skill continues to take practice.

However, the benefits are many and have allowed me to rethink the way I spend my time and energy.

Practicing "no" has become quite liberating and has helped me balance what really matters in both my work and life.

As Jim Collins, the author of "Good to Great" puts it, "'Stop doing' lists are more important than 'to do' lists." This new muscle has become my North Star and taught me that by saying "no," opportunities for "yes" moments become possible.

More often than not, women struggle with guilt and not being able to do it all, apologizing and explaining along the way; why we can't accommodate a last-minute work project or why we need to leave a meeting to handle daycare pickup or attend our child's soccer game.

Life is busy. Work is busy. Our minds are busy. Saying no gives us permission to manage our time by eliminating the clutter of unnecessary obligations. We live in a culture that glorifies busy so it is no wonder that we can easily mistake activity for progress.

Learning to say "no" is just one of the many lessons I have learned over my career. We never stop learning and growing if we remain open to new ideas, perspectives and ways to lead our own lives.

Curiosity has fueled my interest in what brings us success and happiness in the workplace, not just from my own experiences of success and failure but of others who have so generously shared their stories. I have always believed that we should not reinvent the wheel, but rather discover and share best practices.

Here's a few lessons learned that could help you get where you want to be: