How To Say No

Posted by on Oct 26, 2012 in Personal Development | 10 comments

Saying no is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. Saying no frees you to live a life you feel great about living and tells others that you value and respect yourself.

You can say no as often as you like. It’s totally okay to say no. In fact, it just might be the best thing you can do for your career. When you focus your activities on what really matters you will achieve more.

Saying no can also be intimidating. You might wonder if you should just do it. Well, I live by philosophy of not shoulding myself (or others)! There’s nothing I need to do, and if I feel obligated to do something I don’t really want to do then chances are I’m not doing right by myself and if I can’t do right by me, how can I do right by anyone else?

You may worry that you’ll disappoint someone by saying no but sometimes you have to disappoint the right people. You’re the only person that can make your life awesome and it’s an awesome responsibility. You can’t be anything great for anyone else if you’re not great for you.

The idea of saying no is all well and good, of course, but saying no in the moment is harder than it sounds if you’re used to saying yes. When I am trying to change a behavior I find it helps to have some idea how to respond the next time I’m faced with making a better choice for my life. As a recovered yesser, here are some of the ways I learned to say no.

How to say no

how to say noPhoto credit JazzmYn

Be gracious.

Usually when someone makes a request or offer it is because they value my skills and experience. Starting with “thank you for thinking of me” is a respectful way to acknowledge the request and be gracious about it, whether or not I choose to say no.

Be honest.

Agreeing to a request I can’t honestly follow through on harms my reputation, my character, and myself. If I don’t have the time or energy to give, I need to say no!

Respond with truth, not with fear.

I once accepted a job offer I had serious reservations about because I was recently laid off and I was afraid of being unemployed. Boy, was that a mistake! The work environment was hostile and discriminatory and I ended up quitting a few months later. If I had trusted my instincts about the job offer I could have saved myself months of unmanageable stress and even more fear.

I am not trusting myself when I respond from a place of fear. Fear isn’t a fact, it’s an emotion. It’s important to consider what’s true for me and follow my truth when making important decisions.

Ask for more time.

When saying no is especially difficult I can ask for time to give my response. I use this extra time to take a deep breath, focus my thoughts, and honestly consider if I am willing and able to agree to the request or offer. Taking this time to make the right decision for me makes it a little easier to say no when I need to.

Offer to do something else instead.

Sometimes I am unable or unwilling to do what is being asked of me but there may be something else I can do. Offering my assistance under different terms is an effective way to honor myself and my goals, and help someone else out in the process!

Let others be responsible.

It can be tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that other people can’t do it without you, but the truth is they can and will. I once read, “if I don’t drop the ball, no one else can pick it up.” Give someone else the opportunity to take the ball and run with it!


Anytime I can’t decide just how to respond I know I need to THINK it through. I’m on the right track when my response is True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind.

“No” is a complete sentence.

When I try to justify saying no I usually find my position weakening and sometimes I even start to doubt myself! You don’t have to explain yourself- it’s enough to say no.

I love your comments! Is saying no difficult for you? Please share your tips for saying no!


  1. This is great advice, thanks Chrysta! I agree, saying no is difficult and while I feel comfortable there’s still so much for me to work on. One of the things I struggle to say no to are when other professionals want to meet with me because they want to sell me something! As I write this I think, it would be easier for me to suggest a brief phone conversation first before committing to a meeting I feel will just be a waste of my time…hum.

    I think one of the reasons people don’t say no is for fear of missing out – that this could be an important opportunity, one that could make-or-break ya! But the truth is there’s more “opportunity” than there is time in the day. And one great way to determine what deserves your focus is by defining your vision, goals and steps for getting there. Otherwise we succumb to distraction by the bright shinny objects and zigzag aimlessly!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Ariana!

      I like your idea of suggesting a phone conversation before meeting in person to honor your time and energy. It’s a wonderful reminder to me that I don’t have to say yes or no to requests, but can counter with another suggestion that may work better to me.

      Oh yes, I sometimes have a difficult time saying no because I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity. What I have discovered is I have the opportunity to live a meaningful life in every moment. Remembering that my true purpose is to live a life I love helps me say no when I’m offered new opportunities.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have a grateful day!


  2. Hey after reading this article even i want to share my problem. My problem is that i can’t say “no” to anyone for anything because i don’t like to hurt anyone by saying them no but now reading your article i will try it.

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Jimson!

      I hear you and not wanting to hurt or disappoint anyone was one of the major reasons I used to have a hard time saying no. I don’t know about you but my experience has been that even when I said yes all the time other people still ended up hurt or disappointed sometimes.

      What I found to be true in my life was other people are responsible for their lives and I am responsible for mine. Sometimes other people are hurt and disappointed regardless of what I do because that is their truth about their life.

      As long as I am being Thoughtful Honest Inspiring Necessary and Kind when I am saying no then my response can’t directly hurt anyone that isn’t choosing to hurt themselves. Have you noticed this in your life, as well?

      Have a grateful day!


  3. Hi Chrysta,

    This is my first time of visiting your blog and I must say reading through your post was really an eye opener for me. I must say many a time I’ve fallen into a situation where I had to regret it because I said ‘yes’ instead of a ‘no.’ Frankly, moments like that were never pleasant.

    From the tips you have provided I definitely know what to do when next I’m faced with this choice. Thanks for this useful piece.

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Chadrack! I appreciate you stopping by!

      I, too, have regretted saying yes when I needed to say no. Sometimes I temporarily forget to honor myself and say yes but I have found I can still change my mind and back out if I decide it’s the right thing to do. Of course it’s better to say no in the first place but, hey, I’m not perfect. 😉

      I hope sharing my experience helps you say no in the future. Saying no isn’t easy for those of us who learned at an early age to say yes but there’s hope for us still. We can be honest about our abilities say no when we need to.

      Have a grateful day!


  4. Hey Chrysta,

    Sometimes saying no is really hard.

    I had to chuckle when I read under be gracious “thank you for thinking of me”. That’s exactly what I do when I’m trying to let someone down easy. I know they mean well so why not just be nice about it right.

    We all have to look at this like sometimes it’s just best. I’ve gotten upset a lot of times when people have told me no only for something better to come along and I soon realize that there is a reason for everything.

    Love all these points you’ve made and I appreciate you sharing them with us.

    Hope you’re doing much better with each new passing day.

    Have a good week.


    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Adrienne!

      In any situation I find it’s always a good thing to be gracious! Too often people forget that, especially when faced with a difficult conversation and saying no can be a difficult conversation for some.

      I love the experience you shared about being disappointed and then realizing something better was just around the corner- isn’t that just the way it happens?! I love that! I’d much rather have someone say no and find out what comes next than have someone say yes and resent it and/or work themselves to irritability, right?

      Thanks for your kind words about my recovery, as well. I’m getting better and better, though I find I’m still not 100%. I think that comes in another 6 weeks or so.

      Have a grateful day!


  5. Hi Chrysta,

    I just realized that I haven’t been on your blog in a while, but your title really struck a chord.

    For most of my life I have had great issues to say no. The reason why is simple, even though I do not like to bring up my upbringing regarding the things that I do, I know it had a lot to do with it.

    My mother couldn’t say no. She herself had been raised that way. Always, giving, giving and giving some more without almost ever receiving. Unfortunately, that’s go to affect your life. The result? She couldn’t say no to people and did way, way too much for everyone around her. Just thinking of it makes me so upset.

    As for me, as I started studying personal development materials 6 years ago, that’s one thing I’ve learned. Saying NO. I really love it and yes, I feel free when I’m able to say no, now.

    Thanks for this great post :)

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Sylviane!

      Many of us learn not to say no from our mothers and grandmothers. I was certainly raised to believe I should always make myself of service to others and while I believe being of service is a noble cause, I have learned I have to be of service to myself, too. Trying to be everything for everyone else just makes me irritable and unreasonable and completely out of sorts!

      I’m happy to hear you have learned to say no- it’s an important lesson for health and happiness. :)

      Have a grateful day!


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