An Introvert in Software Development Series: Saying No


Haven’t we all been there? The Boss wants us to pull an all-nighter to fix that bug. Or the marketing team has promised a feature way too early. And 14-16 hour crunch-time days are simply expected, not even asked for. Saying No does not seem to be an option.

Or someone decides that the company should have a tech blog, showcasing their processes and how awesome they are. It’s all great and you are going to write it. It’s just 2 articles per week, that won’t take you too long, right? You can add that to all your other responsibilities. Working the extra time for free. It is for the business and for the good of your colleagues, so you take this one for the team, right?

If you don´t recognize any of these situations, you are a lucky person.

You want to answer: Nah. Or fuck off. Or not interested. But you hear yourself saying: Yes. Sure. If it’s for the team.

Why did you just do that? Are you masochistic? Did I just read your mind with that question? I hope so ;).


As an introvert saying No (which relates to setting boundaries) is often harder than it is for an extro- or ambivert.
We tend to think more about other people’s perceptions and reactions. How we might hurt them or make their life harder.

Also sometimes we in such a situation we remember the pain we felt for a rejection we experienced years ago for something that was important to us. And we don´t want the other person to feel this way.

Something small might not feel important enough to deal with the other person’s disappointment or pain. So we agree too easily.


The only solution that I’m aware of is strengthening the “Saying No Muscle”.

Depending on how often you said yes instead of no in the past, this might be slightly annoying till suck and be a serious effort. But I promise you, exercising that muscle will be good for you.

So how to do it?


Be Honest

If you need time for yourself or have other plans it’s okay to say No. You are standing up for yourself. And the other person knows that their expectation does not apply.

This also applies e.g. when someone invites you to spend time together. If it is someone you like but the date and time does not work for you, say no. And then reply with an alternative, e.g. tonight doesn’t work for me. What about Thursday night?

See this as the best options. But it requires the other person to understand and accept.

Be Direct

When you tell someone you need to check your schedule, they will ask again. At work they will likely use this to run you over with something like your calendar is empty.

By saying No, the other person understands that you reject. (S)he doesn´t have to guess or follow up.

With some people this creates more conflict because they don´t like the rejection though.

Be Vague (semi-alternative to being honest)

Some people just don`t get it. May it be an extrovert, an ignorant person, or someone trying to squeeze you further to get more bang for their buck.

The reason doesn´t matter. The fact stays that you learned from this person that an honest answer or your own needs are ignored. In such cases you might need to be more vague to protect yourself.

An example of this is someone saying that staying alone at home is not fun and you have to go to that party with them.
In this case, it can help to tell them that you are busy instead of that you stay at home alone.

Or that you have nothing in your calendar, so you have available time.
In this instance telling them you are so busy, you can’t even update your calendar could work wonders.

Repeat yourself if required

Whatever you tell them, some people just don’t want to accept your No.

You will feel that you need to explain yourself to them, so that they understand and they can accept it.

I am sure you tried to explain it before and people find arguments against it. Especially when they often deal with people, they will do this.

But you know what? You decide if you give them an explanation or not. So it is your decision.

And it is okay to just repeat yourself that you are busy. At some point they will get it.

Keep your No

Some people will try to turn your No into a yes. Some people pride themselves to be able to turn every No into a yes.

If you let them turn one No into yes, these people will remember it next time again. And again.

Plus by changing your mind you give them another argument next time.

Especially when you are dealing with people that are better with talking, keep your No.

It might be hard (at work you might even be threatened with getting fired, but then if that is the case, get out of your toxic work environment). But your future you will thank you.

We learn by repetition. Each time you say no and stand your ground, your brain will remember. And you will feel more secure doing it. And the other person will fight you less next time too.

So for you it is a win-win.

How to start

Start with something small. Something that is unimportant for others, but gives you a quick win. Reject the sugar in your coffee. Say no to meeting where you are not required. Say no to when your boss asks you to polish that power point presentation.

Having wins and training your No Muscle is important. You don’t put 200kg on the bench press when you first start. Or be a couch potato today and run a marathon tomorrow.

Be smart and apply small, incremental adjustments. Like a pilot in an airplane. By the way, a good book for small incremental changes is “1% Better: Make Tiny Improvements for Massive Change”.


When your boss comes around and asks you if you want to take on this phantastic new project from this big client and you have your plate full?

You will come to the point where you say No, when you don´t want it.

Or when they offer you a promotion, with 10% Raise (yay!!! right?) and 30 hours per week more (wait … stop, what?)? You will also be able to say no thank you. If that is what you want.

Ultimately it will be your weapon to set your boundaries

Let me know what stops you from starting today!




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