I want to warn you.

This blog post will surprise you. If you’ve followed me at all, you know I like to make things happen! I go after life with fervor and balls and teach others to do the same. In fact, I’ve even been known to tell you to say ‘yes’ to opportunities, ‘yes’ to life and ‘yes’ to things that might seem a little scary for you.

But today I’m going to tell you how to say NO!

Yes, I said it — NO!

Now, here’s the funny thing about being an actor. We actually hear the word NO a lot and yet, we barely use the word ourselves. In fact, we are almost “trained” to always say YES.

“YES, I’ll sing you only 8 bars of music even though you sent me 42 pages of sides to learn.”

“YES, I’ll arrive at 4 a.m. to set even though you won’t use me until 2 in the afternoon.”

“YES, I’ll take that job even though it doesn’t really fit into my life right now.”

We are told from the beginning to say yes! And for the most part, I absolutely agree with that. I am all for saying yes to many things. Especially when you are starting out as an actor, it IS important to say yes to work. Work begets works, and staying empowered and building your community is CRUCIAL to your success.

But what about when you get to a point where saying YES is not serving you anymore or not getting you where you want to go next?

That’s when it is time to exercise the fabulous power of NO! #powerofno

Here’s the funny thing about the word NO…

First, the word often stops people in their tracks. If you have been a yes person, the first time you say no, others around you might not know what to do. This is actually great.

Second, it makes people look at you differently.

When you begin to say no to things, people will value you more… and you will value yourself more, too.

IF you’ve always been a yes person, saying NO might feel wrong or uncomfortable or even disrespectful. But learning to use it wisely can create some wonderful things for your career and your life.

I had a client, we’ll call her Jodi, who got offered a job that had some very exciting things about it. She needed the work, it paid really well, she was thrilled people asked her to do it, and it was a huge opportunity that could lead to other amazing things for her career. But there were many things about it that were not sitting right with her.

Those ‘red flag” warnings were coming up for her. And even as she was sharing it with me, I could feel her trepidation. And yet, she was determined to shirk her own needs and gut feeling about it because it seemed like she needed to say yes to it. And to anybody looking from the outside, it might have seemed CRAZY for her NOT to take it.

But after coaching her through it, and on her own accord, she took a bold leap of faith and said NO to the job. And that’s when the magic happened.

Suddenly, Jodi felt empowered. Suddenly, Jodi had a good night’s sleep (which she hadn’t for three days since she’d gotten the offer). And suddenly, Jodi felt free! Saying NO was the most empowering thing she had ever done. #empowerment

But the story gets better. Two days after she said NO, guess what happened?

Yep, Jodi got offered another job that was a perfect fit for what she needed in her life. A job that checked off all the boxes and was a huge opportunity for her career. And to this, she said YES!

Now, I’m going to venture to guess that there have been times in your career or life that you said yes to something that you later regretted. And if you are honest with yourself, most of the time when you regretted saying yes to something was when at first you really KNEW you should have said no. Am I right?

Often (especially as artists), we are very in tune with ourselves and when we DON’T LISTEN, that’s when it comes back and bites us in the butt.

So, please hear me loud and clear. I am not in any way telling you to start saying a collective NO to things. But I am encouraging you to find the power of the word NO when it is appropriate in your life. Here are some times when saying “no” can set you free:

1. When it doesn’t feel right. Like the example above, sometimes you know in your gut that things don’t feel right. It’s easy to get distracted by shiny objects that ‘seem’ ideal when deep down we know they are not. Trust your gut when something is just not sitting right with you, and you will always make the right choice. #trustyourgut

2. When it crosses your personal boundaries. If you are asked to do something that is beyond your moral or personal comfort zone, saying NO is your personal right and prerogative. Your boundaries are you own and when you OWN THEM, no one can put you in an inappropriate position. Take responsibility for your personal boundaries in all areas of your life #nomoremetoo

3. When you’re trying to be strategic. Let’s say you’re at a point in your career when you are trying to move up a notch. Maybe you no longer want to do ensemble work, or you no longer feel the need to have any more one-line co-star roles on your resume. When your career warrants taking the leap into a new level, NO can be a powerful way to get people to look at you in a whole new light. #careerstrategy

4. When you’re breaking a bad habit. Using the power of NO when you are breaking a habit is CRUCIAL to breaking it. “Maybe just one sip…” or “One bite won’t matter…” will not lead you to success in breaking a bad habit. Use your strength to say NO to the things you are choosing to let go in your life. #breakbadhabits

5. When you simply don’t want to do it. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you just really don’t want to do a certain project. Maybe you get asked to do a reading of a new play, and you read it and it just doesn’t speak to you on any level. Why do you have to say yes? No is fine. No is acceptable. “No, thank you” is even better. #noisfine

Learning to embrace the power of NO can have profound effect on your career and your life.

Knowing when NO is the right answer takes bravery, trust and strength.

The more you use it, the more powerful you can become. However, it must still be used judiciously to pave your path. Saying “no” too often or saying NO that is driven from ego can actually work against you too. So tread with fortitude, and as I like to say: “Think highly enough of yourself to NOT let your ego get in the way.”

Share a time when you said NO to something and it turned out to be the best thing you ever could have done!

Leslie Becker is Broadway actress, Billboard artist and best-selling author of The Organized Actor®. Since 1994, her teachings have empowered thousands of actors to be strong individuals so the highs and lows of the industry are balanced by a strong belief in themselves. As an actress, she has appeared in 10 Broadway and National Tour productions and she has starred in over 50 regional shows. She is the host of the Facebook Group Organized Actor Alliance and offers free tips for actors at www.OrganizedActor.com.

    4 replies to "Mastering the Scariest Word In Your Vocabulary"

    • Lisa Dennett

      So true! I have said yes to things that ultimately were not good career decisions. For me it’s hard to say no to things when there’s no other work offers, but I’m at a point where I really don’t need to take every little thing. Thanks for that reminder Leslie!

      • organizedactor

        Love having you as part of my tribe, Lisa! You’re awesome!!!

    • Stacey

      Here’s my successful “no story”. I said no to a third season of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which would have taken me out of town. Therefore, I was in town to audition and BOOK my first Broadway show!😄
      Thanks for the great lessons, Leslie!

      • organizedactor

        Love this story Stacey!!!!!

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