How to Say “No!”

Are you guilty of being overly nice?  Do you have too much on your plate because you never refuse when someone asks you for a favour?  Do you feel an incredible amount of stress whenever you have to disappoint someone?  If you are going to survive in this world, you need to learn how to say no.

Be clear.  Do not allow for any miscommunication as this will cause you a headache later.  Don’t say “probably not” or “I don’t think so”.  Be direct.  Say no.  Many people are skilled at turning an ambiguous no into a yes.

Be pleasant.  Be nice about it.  Say it with a smile, and don’t act angry.  Let them know (through your behaviour) that even though you are saying no, you still like them as a person.

Provide reasons.  Let them know why you cannot meet their requests.  They will be less likely to be upset if they understand your reasoning, and it will make them more aware of your boundaries for next time.

Provide alternatives (where possible).  People are much more willing to accept your refusal if you give them other options.  They may be just as happy with your alternative solutions, and if they aren’t- it shows that you are making an effort. 

Say yes (when you can).  You don’t want to say no all of the time.  If you accommodate people when you can, they will usually understand when it is not possible.

Show sympathy for the situation.  Demonstrate that you do understand the situation that they are in, and that you have sympathy for them.  People want to feel that you care.

Don’t feel too bad about it.  While you should empathize with the person, don’t lose any sleep over it.  They will survive without your assistance.

As we take on more responsibilities in our positions, prioritizing becomes increasingly important.  Now, more than ever, we need to be able to draw our boundaries in order to succeed.


(Written by:  Karen Bivand, Photo From: chrisroll /

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