In a profession where we easily get pulled in 6 directions at once, saying “no” often seems impossible, rude, or unethical. Yet, saying “no” is critical to establish boundaries, protect your time, and shelter your personal life.

4. Don’t be wishy-washy

Sometimes, providing a vague answer gives the other person a bargaining chip for a future request. Say someone asks you to get together for drinks after work, which you don’t want to do.

If you say “I’m sorry I can’t today, I have a previous engagement,” that opens the door for the person to request another date when you are free.

If you have no intention of ever saying yes, then don’t give them false hopes. Say, “I’m sorry, I don’t think this is a good idea.”

If you don’t want to apologize for your decision, you could say “You know, I don’t think this is a good idea.”

Sure, it will be uncomfortable in the moment. But it’s better to be upfront early on, rather than prolong the agony over weeks or months. Rip the Band-Aid – once and for all.

5. Defer the decision

Pretend you’re a nurse. A doctor needs X-rays right now. You still have to draw and run blood, give overdue injections, cut nails, and empty anal sacs on an outpatient. Oh, and you would love to go to the bathroom.

Most nurses will say yes, because they want to be helpful. It’s what nurses do. Let’s list a few alternatives:

. You could laugh hysterically in your doctor’s face, then mumble crazy things under your breath.

. You could take those X-rays, but your patients and clients would all have to wait.

. You could gently tell the doctor the multiple tasks you already have to complete and ask them how they would like you to prioritize them (newsflash: vets are not mind readers). You’re not saying no, you’re simply asking, “What would you like me to do first?” You’ve just deferred the final decision to the doctor. Chances are, they will realize they asked the wrong person.

6. Postpone the decision

We sometimes have to make an instant decision in professional and personal situations, then we regret it. After all, we don’t like to wait and we don’t like to make others wait.

Say your manager asks you to create puppy and kitten goodie bags. You already feel overwhelmed. What could you say?

Instead of saying yes to be a team player, be upfront and say, “Thank you for thinking of me, let me get back to you about that.”

This doesn’t slam the door shut in their face, nor does it commit you. It gives you time to step back, evaluate your current responsibilities, and decide if you have the time and energy necessary to take on another project—and do it well.

Learn to politely say “let me think about it,” and take back control over your time (and sanity).

If you would like to learn how Chronos can help you and your team regain time (and sanity), please reach out to us. Simply click on the Discovery Call button above or visit

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free certified

Co-Founder of Chronos