How to say no“No means No”. Sounds simple, right? Sometimes though, “no” does not feel like it just means no. Saying no to friends, family members, and loved ones can sometimes be a very difficult situation. “No” – it’s such a simple word, but so many of us have such a hard time saying it . “No” can feel like we’re we are letting someone down, or like we are cutting someone off. No can also feel like we are regaining power, taking control, and regaining respect for ourselves. Although it’s such a simple word, there are several different ways we can say “no” to others – but it’s important we learn to do it in a way that allows us to be assertive, not lose our own power, and without disrespecting others.

The passive “No”

“Well… I was thinking of going out of town to visit some friends, but I guess I could skip it and work some extra hours this weekend…”

When we are passive, we may try to think up excuses, or over-explain why we are not able to do something. If the other person pushes you over and over, you very well may end up giving into their request, despite not wanting to do it.  When we respond to someone else’s request in a passive way, or do not stand up for ourselves, we are essentially stating that the other person is more important than us. Everyone has equal value, which means you have the right to say “no” to someone’s request. If you consistently give in to other’s requests, and never stand up for yourself when it’s time to say no, chances are you are often doing things you don’t want to do, instead of things you do want to do.

The aggressive “No”

“Are you kidding me? I’m not coming in to work on the weekend, are you stupid? Find someone else to do your work”

This is when we respond to a request in an aggressive and defensive manner. This statement sends the message that you do not consider the other person to be as important as you. Remember, each person has equal value. You can still say no, and maintain your self-respect without impeding on the other person’s. When we are aggressive towards others, it puts them on the defensive, and the other person is also more likely to respond in an aggressive manner. This is when arguments and fights are more likely to occur.

The assertive “No”

“I understand you need help this weekend, but unfortunately I will not be available.”

This statement is concise, and to the point. This person maintains and respects their own personal value, while respecting the other person at the same time. The assertive “no” is a much more favorable approach compared to the aggressive or passive no. It avoids losing your own personal value, while also reducing the chances the other person will respond defensively.

The art of how and when to say “no”

Don’t give into a request just because you feel guilty, or like you should say yes. If the request is something you would have said no to if guilt or other emotions were taken out of the equation, then you probably should not say yes. Saying yes because of guilt could lead to resentment and further stress down the road.

If someone tries to continue to talk you into doing something you do not want to do, they are not respecting you or your commitments. If someone is badgering you, you are not obligated to give them a reason as to why you are saying “no” – frankly, unless you want to tell them, it does not have to be anyone else’s business. Saying “I’m busy that weekend” gets the same message across as trying to explain every intricate detail of your plans and why you cannot do something.

Be prepared to say no multiple times. If we often give into the requests of others, we have trained them to expect us to give in. They may need to hear no several times before they realize you are starting to be more assertive and stand up for yourself. Eventually, they’ll figure it out.

Lastly – After you have told the person no, if you feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders… you made the right choice. Sometimes it can be hard to decide if saying no, or saying yes, is the right choice to make. It can be hard to say no, especially at first, but over time it will become easier and easier.

Additional Reading Suggestions

The Power of Saying “No”

Being Assertive: Reduce Stress, Communicate Better (Mayo Clinic)

Stress Relief: When and how to say no

4 Way to say no and save your sanity (Sharp Mind Marketing)

Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact usto learn more or to book an appointment.

How to Say No
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