I Don't Have The Bandwidth: 12 Ways To Effectively Say “No”

Girl, "no" is a whole sentence. Use it often.

Workin' Girl

Have you ever gotten to the point where you just can't take it anymore? I mean of anything--conversations, social media, family, work, etc. It's that place where "I'm too tired for this," and "If another person asks me for anything," meet and collide. Too often we run on fumes trying to overproduce or over-function for those around us because they are depending on us. Black women especially struggle with saying "no" for fear of looking problematic or angry.

People-pleasing is at the root of always being available or saying "yes", even if it is at the sacrifice of our own mental health. I will admit that it took me years to learn how to say "no" and to create boundaries around myself and I, still to this day, will fall victim to others' demands if I am not diligent. However, it is important for me to prioritize my energy, my space, and my mental health. Get in the habit of radically accepting the fact that "no" is a complete sentence.

Why Do We Say "Yes" When We Really Mean "No"?

Boundaries are necessary to put into place when you are used to being the dependable one in any group setting. We all know that if we don't set these boundaries to take care of ourselves, we will be no good for anyone else. They are, in fact, an act of self-preservation in the name of self-care. Having some safeguards to protect what little energy you have left is a helpful way to make sure you have enough energy to process your own thoughts. So why do we say "yes" when we really mean "no"? According to an article in Psychology Today, we say "yes" for three reasons:

  • wanting to maintain a certain image to others and themselves (e.g. "I am unselfish, cooperative, accommodating"; "I am indispensable");
  • fearing the loss of something (a spouse's love, a friendship, a job)
  • believing that they cannot or should not say "no"
For women, we say "yes" because society has conditioned us to be agreeable. But for Black women, there are other things at play as to why we say "yes" when we really mean "no".

An article in Health.com explores the idea of Black women reclaiming their power by asserting themselves in various ways and saying "no". The article points out other contributors to Black women's reluctance to say "no". Tichianaa Armah, MD, Medical Director and Vice President of Behavioral Health at Community Health Center, Inc., told Health.com:

"There's a connection [of BIPOC women's] hindered ability to say no because of financial constraints."
"[That's] because Black women and many BIPOC women do not have the cushion that comes with intergenerational wealth or assets that many white women have."

Long story short, we have to deal with respectability politics in order to not get labeled as if life is not stressful enough.

Effective Ways To Say "No"

Even still, that is not enough reason to not stand up for yourself and create boundaries to enforce how people engage with you. If you don't have the bandwidth, here are a few ways to say "no" to get your point across tactfully.

  • " I don't have the bandwidth for that right now. Let's circle back to this when I have less on my plate."
  • "I am too tired to absorb that information at this moment."
  • "Let's stick a pin in this for now and think about revisiting it later."
  • "I can't download what you are asking me to do."
  • "Thanks for reaching out to me, but I am going to pass at this time"
  • "Unfortunately at this time, I am unable to do that. But here are some people I can refer you to."
  • "It's a 'no' for me at this time."
  • "I don't think I am the right fit for that. But, thank you for bringing that to my attention."
  • "At this time I have a lot going on, so it is probably better to find a different resource."
  • "Honestly, I am not going to be able to give my best effort."
  • "I would love to help out, but I would be over-committing myself and that would not serve either one of us."
  • "I am going to have to respectfully decline at this time."

I could go on and on with a million ways to say what needs to be said but never underestimate the power of simply saying "no". This is all you need to clearly get to your desired outcome. Never feel like you have to explain why you said "no". It truly is no one's business, but I have found it is always best to be honest if I ever felt compelled to further reinforce my answer with a reason.

Even if that reason is, "Because I don't want to." Rarely does it ever get this far, I find that most people are generally respectful of my wishes. If they push any further, I stick to my guns and reaffirm that I said what I said, no more discussion. We teach people how to treat us. If we don't put ourselves first then why would anyone else?

There is one resource that I think is appropriate to mention if you are still feeling like you need more, it is the book, The Book of No - 250 Ways to Say It, Mean It and Stop People Pleasing Forever. It is a great resource for finding the strength inside to show up for yourself and set boundaries. If there is anything you should walk away with from this article, it is to say what you mean, be firm, and have no regrets.

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image by Shutterstock

From Love & Basketball to The Woman King, The Evolution of Gina Prince-Bythewood

Of all the joys that came from my recent viewing of The Woman King in theaters, my favorite was simply watching another one of Gina Prince Bythewood’s visions brought to life. Since 2000 when she came on to the scene with her sports romantic drama Love and Basketball, Bythewood has built a diverse filmography that centers Black women.

Keep reading...Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.
Bags Secured: How Tia Mowry Continues To Make Money Moves Outside Of Acting

After 25 + years in the entertainment industry, Tia Mowry has remained a mainstay in many of our lives. Tia and her twin sister Tamera garnered fame after starring in their own TV series Sister, Sister, which premiered in 1994 and since then we have seen them venture into solo endeavors. Tia, specifically, went on to act in the film Baggage Claim, Netflix’s series Family Reunion, and who can forget her role as Melanie Barnett in The Game?

Keep reading...Show less
5 Ways To Keep It Together On A Stressful Work Day

Stress is a common part of living, especially when it comes to work. For women, the impact can be felt even more due to workplace issues including unequal pay, gender discrimination, and race-related aggressions. In fact, research shows that professional women experience more stress than men, with a 46% prevalence for those employed full-time (versus 42% for men).

Keep reading...Show less
What 14 People Say 'Great Sex' Means To Them

What is the difference between bad, average, and great sex? If I ask thirty people this question, I would get thirty different answers. As someone who's had their fair share of both good and not-so-good sex, I understand that there is no one size fits all answer to this question. "Great sex" can mean different things to different people. Case in point, I once had an amazing sexual experience with a guy that a mutual “friend” had a horrible experience with. Great sex is subjective AF! According to the mutual friend his sex was subpar at best. One person’s trash is another one’s treasure. Great sex boils down to what is good for you and your partner at the moment. No two people are the same so no two sexual experiences will be the same either.

Keep reading...Show less
Halle Bailey On The Revolutionary Act Of Wearing Her Locs As Ariel

When the trailer for The Little Mermaid dropped, everyone finally got to see Halle Bailey as Ariel. Black women and girls raved over the singer/ actress’s beauty as the beloved character while she belted out the Disney classic song “Part of Your World.” And one of the most noticeable things that many fans pointed out was that the character’s red hair was made of locs.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive Interviews
Latest Posts