Creating a Life Free From Chaos

How to Say No

How to Say NoHave you ever said yes to a request simply because you felt like you had to?

Maybe you were afraid of angering the other person, you didn’t want to hurt their feelings, or maybe you felt like your job or reputation would suffer if you declined. Saying yes when you should be saying no does a disservice to both you and the other person. Not only can it cause resentment, it can lead to burnout and unnecessary stress.

Saying no is something I’ve struggled with for years. I don’t like people to be disappointed or angry with me, so I’d often say yes just to avoid the guilt of the no. And all those yeses piled up into a mess of over-commitment, exhaustion, and finally, a stress-triggered autoimmune condition.

So why do we say yes when we want to say no? It’s often because we overestimate the cost of the no and underestimate the cost of the yes.

People rarely just say no, even when they want to. They hem and haw and say, “I would, but…” and then give some excuse as to why they can’t do whatever it is. Sure, it sounds good, and maybe it alleviates some of the guilt of the no, but it leaves the asker in the position to try again, so you’re not really off the hook. If you’re busy this week, they don’t mind if you wait until next week. If option A is too expensive, then maybe you can look at less expensive option B instead. If you can’t run this event, then surely you can run this other event instead.

Why It’s So Hard to Say No

Here are just a few reasons why we find it so hard to say no:

  • You want to help.
  • You’re afraid of being rude or making people angry.
  • You want people to like you.
  • You don’t want to cause conflict.
  • You don’t want to miss any opportunities.

7 Simple Ways to Say No

It’s so important to practice saying no so that when the necessity comes up, you’re ready. Here are a few simple ways to say no to add to your repertoire. Saying no is about valuing your time and sanity while also respecting the needs of the person asking. You’re not doing them any good by half-assing something you didn’t want to do in the first place. Saying no is your prerogative.

  1. “I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”
  2. “Now’s not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. How about we reconnect at X time?”
  3. “I’d love to do this, but …”
  4. “I’m not the best person to help on this. Why don’t you try X?”
  5. “Sorry, but no, I can’t.”
  6. “I really appreciate you thinking of me, but I’ve just got too much on my plate right now.”
  7. “That won’t work for me right now — but I’ll get back to you if anything changes.”

By learning to say no, you’ll be rewarded with more time for yourself, your work and things that matter most to you. When you do say yes, you’ll be able to give the commitment your all, and you won’t feel resentful or overwhelmed. Preserve your time by saying yes to just those requests that lead you toward the work that you truly want to do.

How to Say No