In the WorkWell Podcast, by Deloitte, Jen Fisher — Human Sustainability Leader at Deloitte and Editor-at-Large, Human Sustainability at Thrive Global — sits down with inspiring individuals for wide-ranging conversations about how we can develop a way of living and working built on human sustainability, starting with ourselves. 

This week, Vanessa Patrick, Associate Dean of Research and Bauer Professor of Marketing at the University of Houston, discusses her new book, The Power of Saying No: The New Science of How to Say No that Puts You in Charge of Your Life. She explains how to empower yourself by establishing boundaries and making clear decisions. 

On why it’s so hard to say no: 

“We often say yes when we want to say no because as human beings, we really care about being accepted and liked by other people. And we want to be seen in a positive light. We want people to see us as competent, as capable, and as able to do anything that comes our way — we want to be seen as supermen and superwomen.” 

On why it’s important to say no: 

“If we take on more than we can handle, we’re more likely to get burned out. We’re more likely to drop the ball on important tasks, because we don’t have the bandwidth and the energy to do those things we’ve been asked to do. And when we say yes to things that we really hate doing, we feel resentful toward the other person, which is damaging to that relationship. So it’s important to rethink how to say no to the things that don’t matter, and give ourselves the opportunity to say yes to the things that do matter.” 

On empowered refusal:  

“Empowered refusal is a way of saying no that’s effective because it stems from your identity. It gives voice to your values and preferences. Because it speaks to who you are, it doesn’t invite pushback from others, and people are more likely to comply with your refusal. So instead of looking outward and seeking reasons for why you can’t take something on, it’s about looking inward and reflecting on what your purpose is and what your priorities are, and using that as the infrastructure to craft your refusal.” 

On a simple technique to support clear decision-making:  

“One strategy is to shift the question we ask ourselves from ‘Can I do it?’ to  ‘Should I do it?’ When someone asks:  ‘Can you come to work on Saturday?’ of course you can rearrange your daughter’s piano recital. You can delegate somebody else to do the gardening, and go to work, but the question is, should  you do it? When we start thinking critically about whether we should do certain things, our decisions become clearer. The way we talk to ourselves and the lens with which we make decisions that are good for us is a skill that we can develop.” 

To hear more from Jen and Vanessa, listen to this full episode of WorkWell here, available wherever you get your podcasts. Visit the WorkWell library for the full collection of episodes. 


  • Jen Fisher

    Human Sustainability Leader at Deloitte and Editor-at-Large, Human Sustainability at Thrive Global

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well"