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Sometimes I even find myself thinking “no, no, no, no” and then I blurt out “yes” Why is it so difficult to say the word “no”? It’s just a word, right? After feeling trapped for some time by my excessive urge to be agreeable, it got me thinking. I asked myself why it was so important for me to please everyone, to the point that I would feel resentful and stressed because of it. I realized, was afraid that every time I did this, I would disappoint someone, make them angry, hurt their feelings, or appear unkind or rude.

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 Why it is so difficult to say ‘no’?

I realize this is not just a challenge that I face, but one that many people go through every day. It’s a heavy burden to carry because with the urge to say’ yes’ also comes a lack of self-confidence. Saying’ no ‘doesn’t mean that you are being rude, selfish, or unkind.


We are conditioned to say yes

The first step to learning to say ‘no’ is to know from where these beliefs have come. Did you ever wonder why it was so easy to say ‘no’ when you were a little kid and why it has become so difficult now? Well, as children, we learned that saying ‘no’ was impolite or inappropriate. If you said ‘no’ to your mom, dad, teacher, uncle, grandparents, and so on, you were most certainly considered to be being rude, and you would have probably been ticked off for it.

Now that we are all adults, we are more mature and capable of making our own choices, as well as knowing the difference between wrong and right. Therefore, saying ‘no’ should not be a big deal. But sadly, we hold onto our childhood beliefs and we continue to associate ‘no’ with being ill mannered, unkind, or selfish.

Knowing Your Value

The second step to learning to say ‘no’ is realizing that you are valuable and choosing your own opinion about yourself over others. I have learned that if you live your life depending on other people’s approval, you will never feel free and truly happy. If you depend on other people’s approval, what you are basically saying is “Their opinion of me is more important than my opinion about myself.”

Is It Really Worth It?

The third step to learning to say ’no’ is deciding if saying yes is really worth it. After committing to something, doubt eventually sets in and you may begin to think of ways you can get out of it. And if you don’t have any good excuses, you then have to decide if you are going to tell the truth or come up with a lie. Think about the anguish, stress, and resentment that saying ‘yes’ has caused you. Wouldn’t it be so much easier and straightforward to just say ‘no’ in the first place?

Helpful Tips for Saying No

Be direct, such as “no, I can’t” or “no, I don’t want to.” Don’t apologize and give all sorts of reasons. Don’t lie. Lying will most likely lead to guilt—and remember, this is what you are trying to avoid feeling. Remember that it is better to say no now than be resentful later. Practice saying no. Imagine a scenario and then practice saying no either by yourself or with a friend. This will get you feeling a lot more comfortable with saying no. Sometimes, you don’t need to give a “yes” or a “no” answer on the spot. Try to defer your answer when faced with a request that you cannot accept immediately by saying, “Give me some time to think about it” or “Let me get back to you in 15 minutes.” After weighing the pros and cons, give your answer and offer a reason if necessary. This way, even if the requester doesn’t get a “yes” from you, he/she appreciates knowing you’ve seriously considered the request.

Easy and Effective Ways to Say “No”

Here are more simple and direct ways to say “no” for you to practice.

“No. Let’s find another way to get it done.”

“No, I can’t do it at such short notice. I have something else scheduled for that time.”

“No, not now. I don’t feel like doing that today. I’d rather do something else.”

“No, I don’t know this topic well enough to do a decent job.”

“No, I don’t want to take on anything that I can’t fully commit to doing well.”

“No, I have a personal policy about not working on Saturdays or not missing my evening workout.”

“No, it’s impossible for me to do that. Please try someone else.”


Not being able to say “no” leads people into doing things they don’t respect themselves for doing. Saying “yes” becomes wrong when they want to say “no” and it is in their best interest to say “no,” but instead they resign and say, “OK, I’ll do it.”Not being able to say “no” distracts people from their priorities and tasks that they really want to get completed. They become so encumbered doing the things they don’t want to do that they have neither the time nor the energy for the things that are most important to them. The key to saying “no” is to say it firmly, succinctly, and without an overlong explanation.

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/31064702@N05/3706154339/”>Dawn Huczek</a> via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re/66acbd”>VisualHunt.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”&gt; CC BY</a>