It’s Okay to Say “No”

It’s Okay to Say “No”

By: Ryan Lee
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It’s a couple months into your new job and you’re the model Co-op student. You’ve impressed your colleagues and have made a name for yourself in the entire office. Great!

But something doesn’t feel quite right… Your days are getting longer, and you’re working on your weekends. The stress is catching up, and you begin to realize you may have bitten off more than you can chew.

Well… That was me. Frankly, I am terrible at saying “no.” Maybe it’s a strong work ethic that has been etched into my existence since I was a child. Maybe it’s not wanting to appear incompetent to the people who could potentially hire me back into a full-time role. Whatever it was, it seemed like my plate was packed to the brim.


It took a long time for me to figure this out, but it’s totally okay to say “no”.

That sounds kind of silly, saying it out aloud – but I think it’s something that many people struggle with. Whether it’s in a professional setting, or in your own life, saying “no” can be difficult. I’m sure that most people don’t want to put themselves in an adverse situation because they turned someone away.

Saying “no” is a skill that I work to improve continuously – there’s never a moment in time where I feel as though I’ve mastered the art of refusal. Something that has resonated strongly with me was this piece of advice: “Say yes to the person, but no to the task.”

Declining a task doesn’t have to be a sign of weakness, or unwillingness – you may simply be at capacity for your nine-to-five schedules and that’s okay. Saying “no” can simply mean you have a good understanding of yourself, and the bounds of your abilities and time.

Whether it’s in your current job, or any that you take on in the future, saying “no” will be an important skill you carry forward. Learning how to do it professionally is the key – be transparent and open about your capacity. There’s no need to lie through your teeth and stay late for an entire week to meet all your deadlines. Your colleagues will thank you for being honest, and you will thank yourself at the end of the day.

If there’s one take-away from this little anecdote, it’s to take care of yourself. “No” is a powerful word – use it!

I’ve been fortunate enough to work for fantastic organizations, who have always taken my well-being into serious consideration – but understandably, not every experience may be like this. If you’re ever in doubt, don’t be afraid to reach out to your Co-op support network – be it your advisors or your peers.

There’s a lot that I wish I could have told myself when I took my first Co-op job, but if I could give myself one piece of advice, it would be this. Don’t be afraid of using the word “no.”

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Posted on February 22, 2018