Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Coping with saying no, when you’re a sucker for saying yes

Disclaimer: I apologize if this blog title sounds slightly informal but in the moment this title was the most accurate way I could describe my feeling about the subject. Saying no is something I truly struggle with and I’m sure others do as well. What can you really do when you’re the Yes Woman/Man but you have to be the “No I can’t help you I’m stuck and it’s frustrating ahhhhhh help me person” and be ok with that. Below you’ll find a guide to my journey in search of these answers, and 5 useful strategies I use to cope with this personality change.


  1. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again
  2. Community and collaboration are your friends
  3. Don’t carry the burden of not having a solution to every problem
  4. Allow others to help you, being the Superwoman for everyone is not the answer to everything
  5. Be ok with simply saying no

The first strategy takes time and might not come instantaneously, but with some perseverance  a conclusion should come to you. Here’s a small scenario to demonstrate what I mean. At my site, throughout the holiday months a lot of the residents and clients I work with come into our office struggling to pay their energy bills and need assistance. Due to lack of funding/time of the year we can only provide a small amount of assistance or have to turn folks away altogether.  And most times, when we turn these families away, we are leading them to a dead end because funding for energy assistance is tapped everywhere else in the city. For a lack of better words, it truly sucks to look someone in the face and say that you can’t help them. However, this shouldn’t deter you completely from finding a solution, it just means you need to explore other options. What I try to do is ask if there are other ways we can lend a hand, give them a semblance of a leg up. It may be that they also need help finding housing, extra school supplies for their kids in the New Year, or counseling services. What I’m getting at is, don’t just stop at the first road block, see if there’s some other route you can take to reach a solution.

However, don’t fool yourself into thinking you have to solve all the problems that come across the desk by yourself. You’ll drown that way and your coworkers will think you’re a control freak, not a very good look! It is ok to admit you can’t handle it all by yourself. I can say, one of the top reasons I chose to remain in New Orleans after college was because of the network and community I have created in the city. Connecting yourself to resources and a larger network of people can only further your work . So next time you’re stuck and think, well I can’t possibly find a solution to this problem ask a coworker or friend to see if they have any ideas. At least shows you put in the effort and exhausted all your resources before quitting.

Number three I admit has taken me the longest to figure out, and is still something I struggle with to this day. This goes along with strategy # 4 and once you figure out how to start doing them both, it will liberate you. By the way this strategy can be applied to both your personal and work life, take notes people. I do realize that everyone is on a different point of the spectrum in dealing with issues, but listen up control freaks this step is for you. You cannot and will not have a solution to every. single. problem. And if you obsess over finding one when you know there’s not a cookie cutter solution, it will drive you crazy. This is productive for no one around you or yourself, so quit it ok? Take a step back and say this is out of my control, let me see if there’s another way I can help instead of focusing my energy on an issue that can’t be solved.

Which brings us to the last point, and in fact one of the most difficult to be comfortable with. The large dreaded NO, the essence of this essay. Some people walk through this world born with the gift of denying others or at least pretending to, I really don’t know how you do it. But I’m trying to! For many of us who are in careers that aim to solve problems and help others, saying no is something we dread, absolutely detest it. But we can’t walk around with our head in the clouds pretending that yes is the answer to every question/problem. I’m not saying this step is easy or always necessary, but the more comfortable you are with saying no when it’s imperative the less stress you will carry.  Try practicing this and stick to your guns, it will get easier. This also frees up more energy to focus on your work and ultimately will help all those around you.

I hope this blog gave all you yes people out there a few helpful tips to cope with saying no. Trust me, it will be a life long journey but the sooner you start the easier it will get. On that note, I should go practice what I preach.

No, I cannot write anymore. Adios.



This entry was posted on January 5, 2017 by in VISTA Field Reports.



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