How to say No (so you can say, YES!)

In order to say YES to good opportunities, you need to get good at saying no

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OK, I know what you’re thinking…Alex, I know how to say ‘no’ – there you go, I literally just said it! 

Whilst I’m certain you know how to say no, let’s be honest, you probably don’t say it as often – or feel as comfortable about saying it – as you should.  

Us humans generally don’t like saying no…

Us humans don't feel comfortable to say no

The most common feeling we experience is guilt.  Which often leads to us over-explaining our reason for saying no, begin profusely apologising for it, or – even worse – lying.  And quite frequently, even though we know we should be saying no, we find ourselves saying yes but for all the wrong reasons.

The whole concept of learning how to say no was outlined to me in Chloe Brotheridge’s book, Brave New Girl

Brotheridge explains, ‘The essential reason we struggle to say no is, we’re worried what people will think’. She continues, ‘What you have to remember is, saying no is good for your mental, physical, emotional, and financial health.  It’s a powerful act of self-care and self-love.’  

Saying no so you can say yes…

If we don’t become confident about saying no we’ll inevitably end up wasting our own time, money & energy.  Crucially, we need to realise, saying no creates space in our lives to be able to say yes to the right circumstances & opportunities.  

Put it this way, if you say no to working late, you’re saying yes to more quality time with your family.  If you say no to the night out, you’re saying yes to a relaxing evening at home.  If you say no to the meeting, you’re saying yes to time focusing on a more valuable project.  

This isn’t about being anti-saying yes. It’s about making sure you’re saying yes to the things you really want to do – the things that matter most.  Yes, we want to help others (and we should), and there are some things we don’t have as much choice over.  But nothing should ever get to a point where it becomes detrimental to our health & well-being.  

How to choose between saying no or saying yes?

When you’re faced with a yes or no choice, ask yourself two questions…

1) Am I sacrificing my health for this? And 2) Will I resent it?  A ‘yes’ to either of these questions is a strong indication of your need to say ‘no’.  

If you’re struggling, think about how they would feel if they knew you really didn’t want to be there?  I mean, you’d want people to say no to you if what you were asking was causing them a problem, wouldn’t you?  

Activity: Download & complete the Actual Cost Worksheet below. Allow your findings to illustrate to you the true cost of not saying ‘no’.  


So, what’s the best way to say no?

Brotheridge helpfully shares 5 key ways…

01. Be Kind 

If you can articulate your ‘no’ in a way that is kind & empathetic it automatically makes the interaction a more positive experience, even if the outcome for the receiver is negative.  You could try to use phrases such as, ‘I would have loved to have helped.’ or ‘I’m honoured that you considered me.’ or ‘I wish you lots of success with it’.

02. Be honest  

The worse thing you can do is lie.  As Brotheridge explains, ‘It’s OK to say you’re busy – even if you’re just busy having a bath and an early night – but don’t make up a fake excuse’.  People appreciate honesty.  If you come from a place of authenticity, they respect you more for it and are more likely to accept your decision. 

03. Let them know it’s not personal

Make them aware the ‘no’ is due to your needs and is not personal to them.  A good tip given in the book is to adopt a ‘policy’, so for example, it’s my policy not to go out on a work-night.

Let them know it's not personal

04. Offer an alternative

I want to be clear here, this isn’t backtracking or backing down.  Sometimes your need to say no has a grey area.  For example, your sister needs you to babysit on Friday night, you want to help but you’ve already made plans.  But, you are free the following Friday, you might like to offer that as an alternative.  

05.  Be consistent

The final key outlined by Brotheridge is to set your boundaries and stay consistent with them.  If people discover you can be persuaded to change your mind you’ll be constantly challenged on your decisions.  Stay true to what you decide is right for you.   

Bonus point – don’t over-explain either.  Yes, sometimes you have to give an explanation as to why you’re saying no, but stick to the facts in a concise way.  Over-explaining – whilst done from a place of good intention – just leads to a lack of credibility.  Keep it as simple and to the point as possible.

Good to know: People will generally respect and understand the ‘no’ much more than we perceive, often resulting in far more productive relationships.

Finally, there are times when you’re put on the spot and need more time to consider your response.  Having a few set responses in your memory bank will help you buy some time in these circumstances.  Brotheridge suggests the following statements: I’ll get back to you.  I’ll check my diary.  Let me think about it.  

Now you ‘no’ what to do…

As with anything that pulls us from our comfort zone, becoming accustomed & comfortable with saying no takes time & practice.  It’s also an adjustment for the people who aren’t used to hearing no from us. Be patient with them (and with yourself) and always remember to keep your focus on what saying ‘no’ means you can say ‘yes’ to!

Source credit: Brave New Girl: Seven Simple Steps to Confidence; Chloe Brotheridge

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Related Reading: 5 Easy Ways to Feel Energised

How to Say No (So you Can Say YES!) Why do we struggle to say no? What is the best way to say no to someone? Includes Free Printable Worksheet #Sayingno #lifehacks #wellbeing
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How do you find saying no? Is it something you find difficult, or are you quite comfortable saying it? Any top tips to share? Whatever you’d like to say (or ask) simply get in touch by leaving a comment in the box below, I always love to hear from you.


17 thoughts on “How to say No (so you can say, YES!)

    1. I think it is one of those skills you do have to consitently practice and I’m with you, I’m a big over-explainer but I’m getting better at it. I find if I keep my explanations as concise as possible, people will often just ask if they need further explanation – thank you for reading! x

  1. I have definitely struggled with saying no in the past, and it definitely led me to become burnt out! One of my jobs always wanted me to stay late, and while in my head I had planned out all the errands I was going to run after work, they were more on-my-own-time so I didn’t feel like I had a good enough reason to say no. And sometimes I needed a nice relaxing evening in, but I felt like I HAD to go out with my ex (who I was then dating) and our friends when they asked…which led to me not even enjoy my time out and spread my negative mood a little bit to everyone else. You really can’t say yes to everything. Thanks for sharing this post!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, I know it will resonate with many – myself included. You’re right, you can’t say yes to everything, so it’s important to use your ‘yes’ wisely xx

  2. This is such a unique take on such a small but complex word. I like the idea of saying ‘no’ to say ‘yes’ to something we will actually enjoy. I have got better with just being honest with people when saying ‘no’ and explaining that I need to take time for my mental wellbeing, but I still sometimes feel the guilt creeping in. Using your advice, I feel like I can be more confident in saying ‘no’ in a positive way. Plus, I love your Actual Cost Worksheet!

    1. Thank you Gemma! I appreciate what you’re saying as that’s my experience too. Old habits die hard don’t they, that’s why I believe the positive reassurance we can grant ourselves helps. Really happy to hear you like the worksheet & I hope it helps xx

  3. I’m very guilty of over explaining. I think I feel guilty full stop if I’m honest. But I am getting better at saying no. I’m just going to keep working on it!

    1. Yes, I can understand, it’s like the guilt has a voice of its own – but honestly, it is OK to say no. Thank you for reading! x

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