It’s Ok to Say No

Desmond Bell DPM explains why caregivers lack hesitation when it comes to agreeing to take on more and become spread even thinner.

If you have made it this far in your career, you are hardly a slacker.

Whether you are a type A, B+ (what I consider myself) or haven’t given it much thought, you are undoubtedly a self-starter.  You don’t need constant supervision or motivation to get through your day, let alone life.  As the saying goes, “if you want something done, look for the busiest person in the room”. Sound like you? If not you, maybe someone you know.

The achievers and over-achievers among physicians are easily identified by their lab jackets, scrubs, and disdain for EMRs, among others. Many of us naturally take on more responsibilities because it is part of our nature. Think in terms of putting patients’ needs ahead of our own. Participation in hospital committees, volunteer organizations, community events, etc., and little time for yourself as a result.


Many of us naturally take on more responsibilities because it is part of our nature. Think in terms of putting patients' needs ahead of our own. Click To Tweet


It seems to happen so simply, maybe an invitation to publish an article, present at a conference, serve on a Board of an organization whose mission is personally important. In the blink of an eye, your most valuable commodity, that being your time, has been given away without consideration of the possible long-term effects.

If any of this sounds familiar, ask yourself some basic but important questions. How did I get here? Why am I doing this? Is this worth the effort?

You are a giver. It is in your DNA. No matter the situation, you possess empathy and share your gifts without hesitation. Hence the lack of hesitation when it comes to agreeing to take on more and becoming spread even thinner.


Physician, you are a giver. It is in your DNA. No matter the situation, you possess empathy and share your gifts without hesitation. Click To Tweet


Remember this simple bit of advice. It’s OK to say no. Sometimes you need to take a step back, reassess the situation and regain some perspective. Feeling overwhelmed because of everything already on your plate, when another invitation to share your skill set comes along? Decline. Politely and without need for in depth explanation. It’s OK. People will not think less of you (and if they do, it’s their issue, not yours). Do you believe that if you don’t accept every invitation to publish, present or serve that you won’t be considered for such future roles? Think again!

By saying no, you will become more appreciated, desirable, and respected.  More than likely, you will become more sought after.  When you do accept such invitations, do so on your terms. Your time is valuable. You need time for you.

This applies beyond your career and is equally important when applied to your personal life (even though the line between personal and professional lives is often blurred). You can’t be all things to all people. Stay in your comfort zone, your lane, and try to be comfortable with yourself.

This may seem like a pretty radical approach, but the practice of saying no does not have to applied all at once or to every situation! Wait for the situation when you are feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed to any degree. You will know it when it happens. When you sense the windup, and the pitch is on its way, pause, relax, breathe.   A simple “I’m sorry, but I must decline” or a “Thank you for the invitation, but the timing isn’t good” conveys appreciation and sincerity, while leaving the door open for future opportunities.  Regardless of how you phrase it, saying no can be an effective method to regain control of aspects of your life that may no longer be bringing you satisfaction or fulfilment. Life goes on regardless, so be selective in your commitments, and if it doesn’t feel right, it’s ok to say no!


Tweet this:

Earn CME credit:

This learning experience is powered by CMEfy - a platform that brings relevant CMEs to busy clinicians, at the right place and right time. Using short learning nudges, clinicians can reflect and unlock AMA PRA Category 1 Credit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

The Beautiful Music of Balance

The Beautiful Music of Balance

Dawn L Baker MD, MS challenges us to think of work-life balance as an orchestra, where all the instruments represent your different roles in life.

Grace - A Gift or a Journey?

Grace – A Gift or a Journey?

Robert Saul, MD writes that to accept the grace of God and others might be our fate, but to make it meaningful requires us to be on a journey to accept that grace and pass it on.

Susan J. Baumgaertel, MD FACP

Navigating Your Health (with Dr. Susan Baumgaertel)

Dr. Baumgaertel draws upon her 30 years of experience as a physician in primary care internal medicine, and uses her personal story-telling style to communicate with you as if you are sitting right across from her. Pull up a chair and enjoy.

Doctors on Walks Getting Food

Explore casual conversation between doctors walking, & then grabbing a bite, in this light knock-off of a Jerry Seinfeld favorite!

My DPC Story

Their DPC Stories

Physicians are increasingly looking to different practice models, as burnout rates continue to climb. This series explores the DPC model.

Support A Platform that Celebrates Real Doctors

For just $10 a month, you can help keep this openly accessible site available to all & help us sposnor in more doctors.

I acknowledge that this site is not to be used for medical advice.

Play Video
Our Founder Answers Your BURNING Question


“Why should I become a member of SoMeDocs if I already have my own space online?”