Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Do you find it difficult to say "no" to people’s requests, even to your own detriment? Do you say yes, when you really wanted to say no? If you keep saying yes when you really wanted to say no, whose life are you living?
There's just not enough hours in the day to say yes to everything and everyone, besides which you just might not want to, so the art of saying "no" is a great skill to add to your toolbelt.
Firstly, realise that you don’t control the emotions of others.
Let that sink in....
There is a lie that is believed that says, “you made me feel” or “I made them feel”. The fact is, everyone is in charge of their own emotions and you can’t make them feel or do anything…they choose whichever emotion manifests.
Have you ever wondered why two people can react completely differently to the same situation? It’s because they are choosing their reaction, whether consciously or subconsciously. How people react and respond, is down to them, not you. Stop and think about that for a moment because that is a huge revelation for some.
Secondly, you need to understand that being assertive is not being aggressive, therefore you can say “no” without being rude. Being assertive is being respectful to others as well as yourself. Being aggressive is attacking or being defensive.
You also need to understand that being passive is not healthy for you either. Your boundaries, your self-esteem, your values can take a battering if you remain passive all the time.
Not being able to say “no” can manifest in a number of negative ways in your life: breach of boundaries, burn-out, depression, stress, ill-health, being in a situation you didn’t want, to name a few, so it’s really important to learn to say no without thinking the world will implode.
Remember, if someone reacts badly to you saying no, the issue is with them not you. You do not control someone else's emotions or actions. They are choosing what to think, what to feel, what to say and how to act.
Regardless of the fact that we do not control people's emotions, it's still important to be kind. Here are some practical ways you can say "no" without being rude or impolite. They are just examples and obviously you can adapt them to suit your language and the situation:
1. "No" to now, but "yes" to later. "I'm very busy at the moment. Perhaps someone else can help you. If not, I'll have time later in the week, from Thursday, to help you out."
This is a great way to say "no." You’re letting them know that there’s no way you can do what they’re asking at the moment. However, you’ve given them the suggestion to ask someone else or the option that they can wait until you do have the time to help out. Not only that, you have been specific about when you will be free.
2. "No" unless something changes. "I'm very flattered that you’ve asked me. However, I'm not currently in a position where I can take on this responsibility. Could we talk about this at another time if there’s a change in my circumstances? I can let you know if things change."
This statement says "no" while still being very polite. You are letting them know that you are flattered to have been asked, but then you’re honest about how little time you have to commit to their request right now and you are giving them the option to ask again if your circumstances change. You are also telling them that you will let them know if your circumstances do change, to save it being a guessing game for them!
3. A definitive "No." "I hate to disappoint you, but I'm not able to do this. I have too much already on my plate right now."
With this statement, you are being empathetic knowing that they may be disappointed but you are also being assertive by saying no and being polite but without having to go into too much detail about why.
4. "No" to attend an event. "I had a great time before, but I won't be able to make it this time since I'm already over-scheduled."
Sometimes you may get asked to an event you don't want to attend or that you just don't have the time for. This statement lets the person know you’ve had a great time in the past, yet you’re over-scheduled or busy this time around.
5. "No" to loaning money. "I’m sorry to disappoint you but I make it my practice not to loan money to friends/family/colleagues/anyone” (use as necessary).
Again, here you are being empathetic by acknowledging that they might be disappointed but you make it clear that this is the practice you have for everyone, and you're not just saying "no" to him or her personally.
Remember, these are just examples and you will have to adapt them to suit your language and situation but they can give you a good platform from which to work. Practice saying no, start saying no and get your life back.