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The Importance of Saying "No"

Saying no is an important skill that many people struggle with

Clients often come to me anxious, stressed and overworked and many times we trace this back to their inability to say no. Saying no is a skill many of us struggle with, whether from people-pleasing or the tendency to over-commit. We also innately want to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way, regardless of the cost.


Socialization, expectations from friends and family, structural commitments and fear of missing out are just a few of the reasons we struggle with the big "No". We need to be able to say no to others, but we also need to be able to say no to ourselves first.


Common reasons my clients give for their worries in saying no include:

  • Not knowing what to say no to

  • Not knowing when to say no to

  • Concerns over being viewed as impolite

  • Worrying over how the no is received (people become upset or angry when told no)

With the latter, I encourage people to remember that we cannot control someone’s reaction to something, we don't "make" them mad. The only thing we can control is in carefully assessing a no, and in offering it respectfully and politely. Most reasonable people will respond well to an occasional no, and if someone reacts unreasonably to a no, then it is even more important to have stronger boundaries and say no more often.


If you are trying to figure out when to say no, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have the time, energy, and money for this at the moment?

  • Do I want to do this?

  • Will this add value to my life?

  • Is this aligned with my values?

  • Am I saying yes, only because I am scared of saying no?

If the answer to any of these questions indicates that a no might be in order, then it is important to know how to say no. Try some of the following statements:

  • Thank you, but that is not for me/Thank you, but no.

  • That’s a lovely offer, but I have over-committed and can’t fit that in at the moment. Can we try that next month?

  • I don’t have the capacity to do X at the moment, but could do Y?

  • I can’t help with that request, but have you tried talking to X about it?

  • I don’t think I’m the best person to help with that.

  • I wish there were two of me, but there aren't.

  • I don't have the bandwidth for that right now.

  • No. (It is a complete sentence)

Finally, remember saying no to others is saying yes to yourself!





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