"When someone asks you for more at work, never say 'I can't'. Use these two words instead."

“Hey, do you think you could stay late for the next week-and-a-half, and do my job in addition to your own? Oh, and can you cut off your right hand so I can use it in a weird sex ritual thing?”

“Um…I can’t.”

“Well, I really need you to.”

“Well, okay, yeah, sure. I guess I can do that.”

Have a hard time saying no to people? Even when you know what you’re agreeing to isn’t in your best interest?

We want to be able to do it all. And for many women that means putting in extra time at work in addition to attending PTA meetings, meeting our friends for afterwork drinks, and keeping every other ball that might fall in our court up in the air, somehow.

But according to Forbeswhile we know working long hours will have a detrimental effect on our health, work-life balance, and in fact our actual work, we continue to say “yes”.

“Women, in particular, may believe they have to say ‘yes; to earn the respect of their boss,” write Forbes.

Janine Allis dishes out the best career advice. (Post continues after audio.)

And once you’ve set yourself up as the person who says “yes”, it can feel then impossible—or at the very least, a bit aggressive—to then say “no”. But it is possible.

In a post for Mental Floss, Shaunacy Ferro points to a 2012 study in the Journal of Consumer Research, by Boston College and the University of Houston that shows how you phrase your “no” might be the key to sticking with it.


The study found those who say “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” felt more “psychologically empowered”.

Mel Robbins explains the study below in full:

Mel Robbins: Can't vs Don't

Do you have a hard time telling people no? Listen as Mel Robbins shares how to set yourself up for success by saying no.

Posted by SUCCESS Magazine on Wednesday, 30 November 2016

In the video above, Robbins uses the example, “I can’t eat cake for lunch”.

The word can’t implies that in another set of circumstances, she could in fact eat cake for lunch. But saying instead, “I don’t eat cake for lunch,” removes any doubt there might be that she could do it at some other time (or if she “shuffled a few things around”).

Try applying that at work. Next time your boss asks the above question about the extra hours and the weird sex ritual thing, you can reply:

“I don’t work after 6pm, and I don’t cut my hand off for anything.”

No room for debate.


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