Learn How to Say No

I was watching Good Morning America on Tuesday. They were talking about this article, “14 Bad Habits That Drain Your Energy”.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As they discussed a few of the bad habits like skipping exercise when you’re tired, one habit caught my attention. “You Have Trouble Saying No.”

Yup, that’s me. Even at this age when I should know better, I’m still the ultimate people-pleaser. The reasons for this aren’t entirely bad. I want to help people and I’m afraid of sounding rude. I want other people to be happy and hate to fight. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and want to be nice.

However, people-pleasing comes with a hefty price tag.

Trying to make people happy all the time is impossible which leads to frustration. People-pleasing comes at the expense of my own time, energy, and happiness. This bad habit can make me resentful, cranky, and angry over time.

Although the word “no” may seem intimidating, on the occasions that I’ve stood up for myself and uttered this small two-letter word, it was actually liberating. If I’m even thinking about saying no, there’s an important reason. I have the right to set boundaries and I’m better off listening to my intuition.

And guess what? When I said no, the world didn’t come to an end. People didn’t hate me forever or put up much resistance. In fact, they took it much better than I imagined.

As I’m slowly learning the hard way, learning to say no is one of the most useful and self-empowering skills you can develop. By clearly articulating your needs and challenges, you’ll feel less inclined to people-please and find more time for yourself and the things that are most important to you.

If you’re like me and feel uncomfortable saying no, here are five ways to decline requests in a graceful, polite, and honest way:

  1. “I’m sorry, I can’t do this right now.” Don’t over-explain or defend your decision and use a sympathetic yet firm tone. If a person asks you why not, reply that it doesn’t fit into your schedule and change the subject. Walk away if necessary.
  2. “I can’t; I have too many other commitments at the moment.” No guilt in this answer, because I’m sure that’s true in all of our lives.
  3. “Let me think about it and get back to you.” This response will give you time to consider your options, build up your courage, and say no with greater confidence.
  4. “I’ll have to decline, but thank you anyway.” This statement usually ends the discussion.
  5. “No.” This is the response for pushy people. Just say it outright. You’ll be surprised when the reception isn’t half as bad as what you imagined it to be. Many times the fear of saying no is in your own mind.

Use one of these suggestions or find one that you are comfortable with and start saying no to requests that don’t meet your priorities. Rest assured, as you practice saying no, it gets easier. 

Learning to say no today will help you be happier tomorrow. Each time you say no, you are saying yes to your own well-being, your personal needs, and things that bring you joy and excitement. So, don’t put it off. Start saying no today!


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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1 Response

  1. Jackie says:

    We are writing similar things – was going to post something about saying No yesterday – but my gray hair blog took over my thoughts – great blogs/thoughts.

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