Learning how to say no

Why does it feel so hard to say no? Some common reasons are:

  • It makes me feel strong, proud and important when others turn to me.
  • I am afraid of starting a conflict or hurting the other person’s feelings if I say no.
  • I worry that I might lose the relationship if I say no.
  • I am embarrassed to say I don’t have the money if I can’t afford to lend it.
  • I don’t feel like I have the right to refuse.
  • I want to help.
  • I always say yes, I can’t just start saying no now.
  • I feel guilty when I say no.

If any of those reasons sounds like you, here are some suggestions for learning to say no.

  • Practice letting yourself feel uncomfortable. Saying yes to someone else only because you feel guilty is a way of saying no to yourself, your goals and your needs.
  • Establish short and long-term goals that you share with others. If no is not yet a complete sentence for you, it may be easier to refuse with a reason that points to your goals so it is clear you are being purposeful rather than mean.
  • Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. For example, I can’t loan you money but I can help you brainstorm alternative solutions or explore other resources.
  • Especially if you feel pressured, delay your response until you’ve had a chance to review the situation.
  • Remember that you don’t have to rescue or save everyone all the time. Sometimes, deciding why your needs are important is the priority.
  • Offer a compassionate no. Acknowledge the need and express regret that you are unable to help in the way requested.
  • Remind yourself that your value lies not in what you are able to do for someone or give to someone. You are valuable just because you are you.