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How to Get Better at Saying No (and Why It’s Important)

by | Feb 16, 2024 | Leadership, Personal Development

Saying NO is the hardest thing on the planet. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. We know that there are other things that are harder. But the point is that saying “no” is really difficult sometimes. And if you’re a self-proclaimed “people pleaser,” you probably feel this on a completely different level.  

The truth is that saying “no” to others often means saying “yes” to yourself. It gives you a chance to prioritize your life in the way that you want, instead of constantly putting others’ agendas before your own. Let’s check out some guilt-free tips you can implement to start saying “no” and enjoying life on your terms! 

Make Yourself a Priority 

“Can you volunteer to be on the parent committee?” “We’re looking for a coach for this team. Are you interested?” “Would you like to be the leader on this project?” People pleasers, this one’s for you! There’s nothing wrong with wanting everyone to be happy. However, it becomes a problem when you realize that you’re risking your own happiness by constantly catering to everyone else’s needs. At this point, it’s necessary to take a step back and do some soul searching. Do you really have time to do it all? The answer is probably no. 

You can get over your constant need to say “yes” by focusing on making yourself a priority and setting boundaries. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup, right? Check out this article for some ways you can start putting yourself first. 

Help Find Alternatives. 

Clip art graphic of 2 men in suits. One “head” is an orange watering can pouring water onto the other “head” that is a plant.

Let’s talk about the guilt factor. We know it’s not enough for us to say, “stop feeling guilty.” At the end of the day, it’s human nature to want to assist others in any way we can. And it’s also probably your gut instinct to feel bad when you have to say “no.” However, there are ways that you can decline a request and still be helpful! For example, let’s say your friend asks you to dog-sit for the weekend, and you already have plans. Instead of cancelling your plans because you feel bad, try to help them find someone else who can watch their dog. 

You could also offer to help teach someone else to do something that you don’t have the time to do. If you’re asked to take on a new project at work, for example, and you don’t have the capacity, you don’t have to feel obligated to say “yes.” Instead, offer to delegate the task to someone with more time and teach them how to do it. That way, you create more time in your schedule while still making sure that the task is in good hands. 

Be Kind  

Chalk art on the pavement with “Be kind” written in pink chalk.

Even though we’re telling you to put yourself first and prioritize life on your terms, it’s still important to say “no” with kindness. Here’s some advice: 

  • Be polite. Use words like “no thank you,” or “unfortunately, I can’t.” 
  • Briefly share the reasons why it won’t work out this time. 
  • Let the person asking know if you’re open to opportunities like this in the future. 
  • Remember to say, “thank you for asking!” 

It’s also important to remember that kindness doesn’t mean giving in if the asker is particularly persistent. Remain firm in your “no” but do so in a way that’s respectful. This balance may be hard to figure out at first, but you’ll eventually get it the more that you practice. 

Take More Control or Your Priorities and Time

We’ve all been that person who’s caught in that awkward situation where you really want to say “no” but end up saying “yes.” Well, no more of that! Saying “no” helps you meet your own needs. And by doing that, you’ll find that you’re better able to help meet the needs of others.  

Saying “no” is a lot easier when you feel like you have a good relationship with the person who’s asking. Read our blog post on how to create more intentional relationships!