How to say no

  • Are you a people pleaser?
  • Do you often say yes, when you actually feel like saying no?
  • Do you sometimes say yes, only to feel guilty about that yes a little later?
  • Do you feel like a bad person when you say no?
  • Are you the kind of person who puts other people’s needs first?

You are not alone! If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might benefit from saying no more often.

Many of us are taught to please others and say yes automatically, even when we actually want to say no. We have internalized the message that being a good friend (or partner, employee, parent or overall human being) means saying yes. We are afraid to ruin our relationship with the other person. The problem is that we can lose ourselves in this process. I for sure did! At one point I didn’t know anymore who I was and what it was that I needed.

In this short blog I will show you how to say no gracefully.

Start with a compliment

Start with a compliment if one fits the situation.
Show your appreciation or simply say “thank you”.

“That’s a great offer”
“How awesome that you thought of me for this”
“Thank you for asking me”

Give your answer

When you give your answer be honest and to the point.

“However I can not fit that into my schedule”
“I already made plans that night”
“I don’t go out on Wednesday evenings”

Encourage the other person

Encourage the person in a positive way to try it themselves or to try it in a different way. Make sure you offer them value.

“Have you already asked …. for help?”
“Maybe you could try to google it”
“Here are some resources that I found very helpful”

Thank them again

This might feel like too much. But if you care for the relationship with the other person, saying thank you twice really is not too much. You can’t really go overboard with a second thank you.

“Again, thank you so much for thinking of me, I feel very honored that you were considering me for …”

Let them know you care

Let the other person know you care about the outcome. Then change the subject or excuse yourself.

“I am really looking forward to the pictures of the event”
“Let me know if the resources were helpful!
“I need to go now, but I hope to see you soon”

All the way through the steps, keep your demeanor light and smile. A smile says “No hard feelings”. When you are not sure whether you should say “no” or “yes”, ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Do I want to do this thing? Or is it that I feel I “should” do it?
  • Will saying “yes” bring me joy or meaning? Or will I feel dread or regret when I say yes?
Text reading "nope", handwritten with white marker on a wooden background.

A few other tips

Start practicing saying no in small and not so important situations. Like not buying something in the supermarket or say no when the waiter asks you if you would like another drink.

You don’t have to answer immediately. You could also say: “I will get back to you with an answer later”.

Before you answer, take a deep breath. This gives you a little space to tune into yourself and your needs.

Keep in mind that it is always okay to change your mind. Even if you already answered with a yes!

Before giving an answer, tap into your values. Does saying yes align with your values?
Research has shown that living our lives in alignment with our values will benefit your health and wellbeing.

Ask yourself what you will gain by saying no, rather than focusing on what you will lose when you say no. What will you gain by missing out?

Try to not see it as saying no to the person but rather as saying no to the request. You are not declining the person when saying no, you are declining the request this person makes. Realizing this enables you to do what is right for you and your well-being without fearing that we are hurting the other person.

Do you want to learn how to set healthy boundaries?

I made a workbook “Setting Boundaries” that will be sent to you for free when you sign up for my newsletter. You can sign up here!

In our community The Happy Sensitive we will also be talking about setting healthy boundaries and saying no. If you’re a highly sensitive person and you are looking for a place to meet other HSPs then The Happy Sensitive community might me just what you are looking for.

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