Learning to say no is a worthwhile skill


Veronica Combs (FL), director of community engagement, Institute for Healthy Air Water & Soil

My favorite part of the 100 Wise Women networking breakfasts is the table conversation inspired by the keynote speaker. The wise woman at the podium always has something interesting and memorable to say, and First Lady Jane Beshear delivered on that mission at this week’s event. During her husband’s administration, she has helped provide everyday necessities to women in domestic violence shelters, and health screenings to people in the horse industry who don’t have insurance. She accomplished both of these tasks during a recession when financial resources were even scarcer than usual.

Jane reminded us that personal responsibility doesn’t stop at your front door. “You have a personal responsibility to take time for yourself and care for yourself. Otherwise you can’t take care of your family or contribute to your community.”

After Jane spoke, the women at my table shared their thoughts on unexpected leadership opportunities. We also discussed how we mentor and encourage other women. I took away several good ideas – don’t assume colleagues know everything you know, be generous with your time and experience, and look for informal opportunities to share your wisdom whether it’s in the office or at a child’s baseball game.

One piece of advice stood out to me, and prompted a burst of applause when I shared it with the room at the end of the event. A woman at our table, Beth Ann, said she coaches her friends and coworkers on how to master the art of saying no.

“People are surprised when I say, ‘no,’ but I remind them that they are not happy when they are spread too thin with too many obligations,” she said. “When I say, ‘yes’ to something, I am committed 100% and I know I can come through on my promises.”

I will remember her words the next time I am tempted to over promise and will take up Beth Ann’s cause of spreading this wisdom.


Learn more about the 100 Wise Women breakfast series and register for the September 16 event featuring Lara MacGregor.