The Most Important Word – Say No with Confidence

There’s a word you got to learn to say if you want to reduce stress. That word is NO. It  is strange that this two-letter word is so hard to say. Are you one of those who, when someone asks you to help them, say YES and think to yourself: “Why did I say that? I really don’t have the time to do this, but…” One of them who would love to learn how to say no with confidence?

There are a lot to benefit if you learn how to say no. You will be in control over your own time. Most people who are feeling stressed out or burned out describe the feeling of loosing control over their own time. Learning how to say no will create more time for the things that are the most important to you.013

I am a yes-person. Every suggestion sounds good and interesting. I love to help others. This is one of the reasons why I say yes without thinking. And I know I’m not the only one finding this difficult. There’s just one problem: if you do this some people may think that you don’t value your own time, needs or dreams. Learning how to say no is essential.

Why is it so hard to say no?

We are all different. We have different needs. These needs may get in our way and could be a conflict to what we want in life. Many of the reasons why it’s hard to say no is the same all over the world. To understand what drives you is important. When you have it figured out it’s easier to find ways to say no. So, what is driving you? Is it the need of being loved, being important, being admired or is it to hide your flaws… Once you know what it is you can find ways to handle it.

Like I said; I love to help. The result of this is often that I end up not being able to do the things I love to do myself. I don’t have any time left. I tend to give but I’m not good at receiving. As a teacher working with kids and a single mother I give, give, give and help, help, help… When it’s finally time for me to do what I love the most I’m very often too tired.017

Guilt is another of my personal favorites. I feel guilty saying no. If I really can’t commit to something I make sure they are not standing alone. I ask if someone else is helping them. If they don’t have anyone they very often have an idea of who they can ask instead – and then I say: Ok, but if you can’t find anyone call me and I’ll find a way to help you. Really not a good way to say no, is it? Stop feeling guilty if you have to say no. It’s not selfish! No one can say yes all the time, no one expects you to – and the people asking for help are usually grown ups and therefor able to find a solution to the problem themselves. Believe in them.

Is it your role in life to make it alright for everybody else? Why is it your job to do that? Who is taking care of you? If you, like me, wants to make it alright for everybody else you probably have a hard time to ask for help yourself and an even harder time to receive and accept the help you get. You need to start to value yourself. You do deserve to get your need met too!

Another reason for not saying no could be the fear of conflict. You don’t want anyone to think you are rude. You might not want anyone to be angry with you. It might be a way to avoid conflicts since they make you feel sick to your stomach. It’s very common to avoid confrontation. One of the easiest way is to say yes. Saying no doesn’t mean there’s going to be a conflict or confrontation. If there is it will say more about the person refusing to accept a no than about you.

Are you scared you might not get asked again if you say no? That there might be opportunities that will never come again if you do and you might regret this no forever. Ask yourself this question: If you needed help and someone said no would you never ask them again? Of course not. If they would say no every time you ask, then you would stop asking. If they sometimes helps you and sometimes don’t you’ll continue asking them if you think they could help you with a certain situation or task. So why do you worry?

The last reason why someone always say yes is not being taught how to say no. This means we actually don’t know how to do it. If this is the case the solutions is easy: learn how to say no and get the experience you need by practicing it.

When to say no

When is it time to say yes and when is it time to say no? Often you know deep down in your heart what you are supposed to say, but the fears and the needs we were talking about earlier overrides the feelings that will guide you to make the right decision. Start listening to your body. Learn how it feels in your body when it’s time to say no. I get a lump in my stomach. Then I know something isn’t quite right. Where can you feel it in your body? Knowing the signs you body gives you will make it easier to make the right decision.

How to say no

Perhaps you need to learn how to say no with grace. Knowing how to put it should help you to say those dreaded words. Start by taking a piece of paper and write down some answers you can use when you have to say no. Ask yourself how you feel when you say no. Do you feel guilty or are you scared of a conflict? Are you afraid they won’t respect you or that they might realize they don’t need you anymore? These are the fears that you have to consider. Writing the list while asking yoursel

• How can I express this so I will not feel so…
• What can I do so I still feel …
• How can I avoid being afraid of………….

Here are some suggestions to how to say no.

• I’d love to do it, but…
• I have to check my calendar… (This will give you some extra time to think and decide if you want to do it or not.)
• Let me get back to you…
• I wish I could, but I have so many other things I have to do right now. I won’t be able to commit the way I’d like to.
• It’s really not a good time right now. Can we make it another day?

Before you say yes remember to take a short pause and check your calendar. Make it a habit to check the calendar. This way you give yourself some extra time to decide if you are going to say yes or no. It also makes it easier to plan your time.kalender

Sometimes I know I will need to have some quiet time. Then I write “me-time” in my calendar. It means I’m going to have a lot to do and need some time to relax. No one needs to know why I say no. But when I read “me-time” it’s so much easier to remember to say no. The best part is that I have a reason and don’t have to feel guilty – I’m already booked!

If it feels difficult to say no, remind yourself: what will you be able to say yes to? And what will life be like then?

20 Replies to “The Most Important Word – Say No with Confidence”

    • You and me both! I’m trying to learn how to say no – but it is not easy. I just hear a yes jump out of my mouth before I even have though about it. I try to learn to look at my calendar first – to give me time to decide if I’m going to say yes or no. This is a work in progress. I wish you success with saying no! It will free up a lot of time and I guess you already know what you would like to do if you just had some more time…

  1. I went to a communication seminar once and the instructor said something I have used before. When you need to say “no” to someone, say: “I just won’t be able to give it the attention it deserves.” I always thought it was a great line.

  2. Hello Marie, at first, what a great website you have, even the comment form is chique, and than, say no with confidence 🙂 I am also a person who has not only difficulties with saying NO, but also a bit to spontanious to offer help. That makes it a YES/YES. I love your suggestion to put Me-time in my agenda, I really am going to do that, thank, Loes

    • I know Cindy. It can be so hard to say no. The problem is, if you feel guilty about it, that it will not make you feel good when you say yes – or if you say no. Make sure you get some time to think before you answer. It must not be a long time, just enough to decide if you want to say yes or no. If you realize you don’t wont to do it you can look at the situation as one of the moments that you can practice saying no.

  3. Nice post. Not saying yes to everything is definitely something that I had to learn the hard way after finally realizing how much it drained me at times. It is such an important thing to learn and apply. I believe so strongly in the value of saying no that in the past I have written a post on my blog about the topic 🙂 It’s never easy but always worth it in the end.

    • Hello Jess, it is so hard to say no. I still try to remind myself not to say yes to everything. Where can I find the blogpost your’ve written? I really like to read it. Marie

  4. Hi Marie! What a beautiful website 🙂
    I have problems saying no too, it really is hard, but I’m getting better at it. I have began saying no without a long explanation and it is soooooo liberating! I don’t mean I never give an explanation, I do explain sometimes but not always anymore. I have decided I have the right to just say; “no, I can’t do this, sorry”
    It is a matter of practice though and it is not easy, but I’m proud every time I manage to do it 🙂

    Take care and just say NO,

    • Thank you Kristina for your kind words and for your advice on how to say no. I still need to remind myself not to say yes all the time. It is a work in progress. Saying no without an explanation is a great idea. I’m going to try that next time I need to say no.

  5. Hello Marie. Its been a little while since I dropped by. So glad I have today! This is a totally awesome way to encourage folks to bring more time freedom into their lives. Its freedom to give expression to our passions and freedom to care well for ourselves. If we aren’t doing that we may one day not be able to be there for those we love in the way we want!

    You have made a significant point in that its very draining to always be in yes mode. I am a YES person, been so for all of my life. And while I have read many things to help with this challenging situation we create for ourselves, one thing you suggest here is going to be very powerful. Its the suggestion to schedule ‘me time’ into the calendar, to look at that calendar when someone wants us to do something for them gaining a few moments to reset our composure and then to effectively say NO.

    Thank you for bringing this back to me. Its a good wake up call.


    • Hi Linda, glad you found new ways to say no. I think a lot of people who feel stressed out have a problem to say no – and that gives them too little time to do what gives them joy and more energy. At least it has been like that for me. Me time has helped me a lot. I hope it will help you too!

  6. I have a lot of practice saying “No!”; I have two teens! ;D My issue is saying “no” to people who are “authority figures” in my work and personal life. I’m working on that, though. I agree fully with figuring out what my priorities are and my time limitations and using them to determine when to say “yes” or “no.”
    Thanks for a great article!


    • Oh Beckie, I guess I’m going to have more pratice to say “No” soon. My son is 10 now. It is going so fast and soon he will be a teen.

      It is hard to say no – even harder to say no to authority figures. Often it seems like they know it so they will continue asking for things… Keep practicing!

  7. This is such a meaningful topic to address Marie. I try to say no but I’m rubbish at it. Sometimes I don’t answer my phone when I don’t want to say no to the person that’s ringing. I often say yes when really I want to say no. The tips you give are really useful. I’m going to write down some of the reasons why I say yes when I want to say no and get to the bottom of this! : )

    • Hello Clarie, I’m glad if this will help you find more ways to say no. I think this is an important topic. Many of us find it so hard to say no. This is something a lot of people need to practise. I’m still learning it myself. Sound like you already have one strategy. If you find two or three more you’ll see saying no won’t be as hard anymore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *