How to say no


When we’re little, saying no is easy. We say no when we don’t want to go to school, when we don’t want to eat or vegetables or when we don’t want to go to bed. But as we get older, saying no gets harder. We get told that saying no is impolite and that we should always say yes, otherwise we’re likely to be considered rude or selfish, which are both very bad things to be.

Saying no, as we get older, becomes off limits and saying yes, means that we’ll be perceived as being good and amicable and, most importantly, that people will like us.

However, there is a major downside to saying yes all the time. We say yes to demands on our time constantly because we worry that if we say no we’ll be rejected or humiliated. So we say yes, even if we’re exhausted, stressed out and trying to juggle a million other things at the same time.

Saying no is a powerful thing. It allows us to realise our own self-worth and it reinforces healthy boundaries. It also protects our time and can make us feel empowered. But saying no is not an easy thing, so how should you do it?

How to say no
Be direct – If someone asks you to do something and you really don’t want to do it, simply be direct. Say, ‘No, I can’t sorry,’ or ‘Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not free’. Don’t feel as though you have to apologise or give a host of reasons why you have to say no. Your time and your schedule is valuable and ‘no’ is a complete sentence.

Don’t lie – When faced with turning someone down, many of us tell a little white lie to ease the burden, for example: ‘I’d love to help you with that but I can’t because I’m having dinner with my parents’ or ‘I have to work late’. Lying will only lead to feelings of guilt which are more likely to make you cave in on your decision. Remember, by saying no you’re trying to create a healthy boundary and have some essential time for yourself. There is no reason to lie. Remember, it’s much better to be upfront and say no now than to say yes and be resentful later.

Don’t prolong it – Try to avoid saying, ‘I’ll think about it’. Especially if you already know that you don’t want to do something. This will just prolong things and lead to more feelings of stress and guilt.

Practice saying no – Saying no can be difficult, so try practicing it as much as you can. Say no to your friends, your family, your boss, anyone! The more you practice the easier it will become.

Catherine Devane