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How to Say No: 15 Ways to Reason Politely, Stop Pleasing & Feel Kickass

When someone asks you for something and you don’t want to do it, you need to learn how to say no. It’s not always easy, but here’s how to do it politely.

how to say no

There are some of us who form a life around finding our value in making those around us happy. That is a road to emptiness. The fact is you spend your whole life trying to get everyone to like you and you won’t ever be able to. There are some people who will dislike you simply because you try too hard to get them to like you. Sound crazy? It is, and that is why you need to learn how to say no.

If you are overscheduled and constantly feel overwhelmed, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

Whether it is work or family obligations, you always have two options. You can say yes, or you can say no. For those of us who want to please people, saying “no” goes against all that we are.

It’s easy to admire people who call someone when they need help, admit that they are in over their head, or even just put themselves first and not have a problem just saying “Sorry, I can’t.” 

The problem is that a lot of people try to say “yes” to everyone and create a scenario where they are getting the exact opposite result of what they try to achieve. [Read: People pleaser – 20 common signs most people just don’t see]

Learning how to say no by reasoning through it

Most people say yes to make other people happy. But, in the end, they either end up letting people down by not coming through or behave illusively while doing whatever it is they said they would, which drives people away. 

Being stressed out doesn’t make anyone very liked, which is the very reason they said they would do it, to begin with.

If this is a cycle you are familiar with, the only way to break it is by figuring out how to say no. Although seemingly a bad word, “no” said in the right way, isn’t bad at all.

If you learn how to communicate better and say no honestly and with sincerity, no one is going to be upset that you can’t help them out. They see that saying “yes” won’t be doing either one of you any favors.

1. Don’t overexplain

The key to saying no is not to overexplain. You don’t have to give someone your entire schedule or explain why you can’t do something. That just leaves you purging all over them.

If you can’t do something, it isn’t on you to explain why you can’t. Just like it is anyone’s prerogative to ask for a favor, it is your prerogative to say no. It really is that simple. [Read: How to finally get over the fear of not being enough]

2. First-come, first-serve

Develop a first-come, first-serve policy. If you have said yes to someone and then another person asks for something later, go by the first-come, first-serve policy. Stop trying to rearrange everything in your life to accommodate everyone’s needs.

It is best to keep a concrete schedule, and, once full, you just can’t do anything more. Constantly moving things around or shifting your responsibilities leaves you stressed, overworked, and probably leads to you dropping the ball and letting people down. 

It isn’t your responsibility to work around everyone else’s schedule. If they ask for a favor, make it fit your life, not the other way around. [Read: How to be emotionless and stop getting sucked into others’ problems]

3. Offer an alternative date/time/situation

If someone asks you for a favor and you can’t do it, find out if there is another time that you can help them out. Sometimes things can be flexible and sometimes they can’t.

Giving people the option to find another time for you to help is not exactly like saying no, rather it is saying “maybe another time.” If they can’t do it any other time, at least you tried to do more than just say “no.”

4. Realize if they are mad… it is their problem

If you continually say yes to get people to like you, then you aren’t doing it for the right reasons. It only leads you down the road to misery.

If someone makes you feel like they will be upset with you if you can’t do something, then they aren’t really concerned about your feelings at all. Why try to make someone happy if they don’t care about how you feel? 

Doing things to make others happy or out of fear, never leads you to find happiness. It ends up making you feel empty. [Read: Why am I so insecure? 20 reasons why you care more than others]

5. Try negotiation

If someone wants you to do something, try negotiating it down a bit. For example, if they ask if you can drive their child to a party and you already have a full day, then ask if you can drive to the activity and they pick up. 

If that doesn’t work, then ask if they can do something else in return to lighten your load another time or day.

Negotiation is a great tool to help you feel less used. Over time, if all you ever do is say yes, even when you don’t want to, you begin to feel used. 

It will have a real consequence on your self-esteem. Giving something to gain something is a much more equitable system for your psyche. [Read: Manipulative people – How to spot them and stop playing the victim]

6. Think of the worst-case scenario coming from the word “no” 

Fear can be a very persuasive motivator. If you want to say no but are afraid to, try to think about what the worst possible thing from telling someone you can’t or won’t do something is.

Likely, whatever you think is going to happen from saying no, is way more stress-provoking than real. If you say no, the consequence is going to be that they ask someone else and totally forget about the entire scenario.

7. Realize your self-worth is not in doing things for people

It isn’t your job to make the world go ’round. If you always say yes to people because you think that is why you are here on earth, then you negate your first obligation which is to make yourself happy.

If always saying yes isn’t making you happy, then you let yourself down. You can’t define your self-worth by what you do for other people. If you do, you are always going to feel pretty worthless. [Read: 16 reasons why you’re always being taken for granted by others around you]

8. Create boundaries

There are going to be some people who abuse your kindness and turn to you for everything in their life. It is important to recognize those people who take advantage of your generosity.

People that continually ask for things but rarely give back don’t deserve your time or your help. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking someone for a favor, then you shouldn’t be doing them one, period. [Read: Selfish people – 20 ways to spot them and stop them from hurting you]

9. Don’t beat around the bush

It’s too easy to be indirect and say no by not actually saying no. Also, don’t offer a weak excuse or fumble your words. If you do this, it only opens the door for the other person to talk you into it or argue with you. 

When you’re not direct with the other person, then they will see you as weak and might try to take advantage of you.

Sometimes when a person hears “no,” they might take it as an opportunity to try to convince you to say “yes.” Some people don’t take “no” for an answer, so you need to make sure they do.

You need to be assertive, but courteous. You can apologize briefly, but say something like “I’ll let you know when I can.” This is polite and it also puts you in the position of power by changing the dynamic on them.

You’re telling them that you are in charge and that you will be in touch with them, not the other way around. [Read: How to set boundaries with friends without insulting or hurting them]

10. Use “no” body language

In case you didn’t know, about 80-90% of all of our communication is nonverbal. So, you need to be aware of what your body is saying to the other person by using body language that says “no.”

You can turn your torso away from them so you’re not facing them. Crossing your arms is another way to give the signal that you mean it. This cuts off communication by closing off your chest.

It’s a defensive posture and generally unfriendly. It shows that we are guarding ourselves. Once you tell the other person “no” with your body, the person will probably get the message.

11. Try to understand their tactics

There are many people who are just downright manipulative whether they mean to be or not.

For example, if the cashier at a store asks you when you check out if you’d like to donate money to starving children, they would not ask you to donate. 

Instead, they would say things like, “How much money would you like to donate? $10 or $20? Do you see what they’re doing? They’re “asking” you to donate, but not really giving you an option not to by the language they use. It tricks you into saying yes. So, beware of these tactics. [Read: Psychological manipulation – 16 signs and tactics real manipulators use]

How to say no politely

If you need some actual lines to have ready when you have to say no, then you can try some of these because they are quite effective.

1. I wish there was more than one of me

This is kind of a funny or silly way of saying no, but the message is still clear. This implies that you have so much going on that one of you can’t accomplish it all. So, if you take on something else, you will need one or two more of “you” to do it. 

Another alternative to this is: “I think I’m overbooked, so I can’t fit it in” or “I’m so overwhelmed that I can’t take on anything else right now.”

Message sent. [Read: The martyr complex – How to recognize the signs of a martyr in yourself]

2. Thank you so much for asking, but I can’t

When you say this, you are complimenting the other person by saying “thank you.” You make them feel like a good person for asking.

And since you made them feel good about themselves, they won’t be as upset by you saying no.

3. I’m so sorry, but now is not a good time

You don’t have to explain why it’s not a good time for you. In fact, you shouldn’t because it’s none of their business. You could be busy washing your hair or reading a good book if you want.

Regardless, it’s “not a good time” because you don’t want to. An alternative to this is “Unfortunately I have something else scheduled.”

4. That sounds great, but I’ll have to take a rain check

With this statement, you are acknowledging that what they are asking you to do sounds positive. And it sounds like you are grateful to be asked.

But, instead, you are asking for a rain check – to do it some other time. This way, you are not just blowing them off, you are hoping to reschedule for a different time.

Saying NO comes with practice and stronger self-respect

Many people can’t say no because of the way they feel about themselves. They want to be a good person, and they think that if they say no then other people will judge them negatively for it.  [Read: How to build self-esteem and love life with 10 simple life changes]

So, you also want to do some soul searching and figure out what your reasons are for not being able to say no. What is there about you that keeps you from doing it? You should try to feel better about yourself so you can put your needs on top of your list, not other people’s.

There are many different reasons that some people can never say no. But you probably fear reprisal or to gain acceptance and to be liked. The truth is people will like you for you, not for what you do for them.

Doing things isn’t a way to gain friends or make yourself happy. In fact, spending your life saying “yes” when you really want to say “no,” is a self-sabotaging behavior that almost always leads to feelings of emptiness.

[Read: How to tell someone is using you – 22 signs a user just can’t hide]

Learning how to say no can be one of the most freeing behaviors you build. You would be surprised how easy saying it can be with some practice. 

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