How to say "no" well

How to say "no"

Saying "no" is problematic for many of us because essentially we are people pleasers.

May 10, 2022

For many of us saying no is problematic because, essentially, we are people pleasers. Most of us prefer to create harmony rather than disharmony. Saying no is, intuitively, a shortcut to making somebody unhappy.

What few of us give real time to is considering the implications of saying "yes" when we should have said "no". Many of us bring upon ourselves copious amounts of unnecessary pressure by agreeing to things that we have no time, or sometimes no appetite, to do. All in the name of maintaining harmony. But the harmony is entirely one-sided (the other person feels great!) and therefore not #honest and whilst we have saved ourselves the awkwardness at the moment of saying no (of having a #realconversation), we have created for ourselves hours, and maybe days, of pressure which need not have been ours.

Saying "no" is a lot simpler than many of us imagine. Here is one way to elegantly decline without coming across as unhelpful or difficult to work with.



Thank you for asking me I'm really pleased that you thought of me.



Unfortunately, I can't see a way to make space for this.



Stay quiet (or empathise)

It looks like me saying no has given you a problem.


And this is the hard part. Staying quiet when all we want to do is to give multiple reasons and excuses for why it is impossible for us to perform the task or favour, so desperate are we to not be seen as ungenerous or difficult to work with. But if you want to preserve your space, your time and wellbeing (and sometimes put it ahead of the needs of another person or of your organisation) then staying quiet is just what you must do.

If you must speak make sure it is to empathise with the other person, not to make an excuse.


Saying "no" to somebody does not mean "I don't want to help you", it means: "I can't help you this time."

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