Say Yes to Saying No

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‘No’ – Why is such a short word so hard to say? Jackie Hillegers explores why – and how – we should say yes to saying no!

We live in a world where we avoid conflict by agreeing to do the things we do not want to do – due to a fear of being judged, disliked or being left out in the future.

‘No’ is a complete sentence, but it can take practice to say it in the right way. We often say ‘yes’ way too fast, which causes us not only to feel annoyed and frustrated with ourselves, but also feel resentment towards the person who put us on the spot in the first place.

We need to take the time to think our options through in order for it to be a genuine agreement or commitment.

Research has shown that women have a harder time saying no than men and this could be because women have a need for acceptance and a want to belong.


Pleasing others is in our nature, and we often change how we act to fit in with those we want to impress. Your worth becomes based on how other people see you – kind, generous and helpful; always there to lend a hand and help out.

This is great at first but can become exhausting trying to keep up with commitments. People pleasers tend to like validation but avoid conflict, which is why ‘no’ is so hard to say.


Helping others or giving back is extremely important so I am referring to situations when you are overcommitting by constantly being a ‘yes’ person.

Others can make you feel guilty with statements such as ‘everyone else is helping so would you like to join in’ or ‘make sure you are free on this day’ which can create a sense of panic or confusion.

What we need to realise is that we need to protect our own energy too, so if we have had a busy week our body deserves downtime to rest and digest. We work best when we recharge when our body needs it!


Practice saying no to smaller situations. Try to make eye contact, speak in a softer but more assertive tone in order to be more confident in your decisions. Notice how people react with their body language and have techniques on hand to reassure them that you will be available in another time and place.

It can be hard to back out when you verbally commit on the spot so try to ‘practice the pause’ before saying yes or no by breathing slowly for a few seconds, and consider what you are about to say. Have a sip of your drink to stall for time or gather your thoughts and consider your options. Try not to give a drawn out reason why you cannot help or attend as it may sound like a weak excuse.


If I can’t make this event, will there be another one coming up I can commit to?

I don’t want to double-book, so let me get back to you?

This month I am over-committed sorry.

I can volunteer my time for an hour or two, if that would help?

Regretfully, I cannot make it as I have other commitments.

Thank you for thinking of me, but I will have to decline.

I appreciate the offer and please keep me in mind for next time.


When we set healthy boundaries for ourselves, we feel more balanced and confident. Make a list of how many events you are willing to attend per week. You may have a certain day in mind when you are not so busy. Prepare your answer and schedule in advance. Think about how full your cup is before committing.

Just remember that you are only one person and you can only stretch yourself so far before you snap.

When you do start to feel more comfortable with saying no, you will feel more genuine and at peace. If you get a funny uncertain feeling that you cannot commit, try to say ‘maybe’ as yes and no can be taken as gospel.

So, focus on less pleasing other people, and foster more confident decision making for yourself. You will be surprised just how much more energy you will have when you stop saying yes to everything. Next time someone asks for a favour, you will not only be able to say yes with certainty but you will feel 100% invested and committed in saying the word ‘yes’ – or ‘no’.


  • We feel guilty or unsure of how to say no
  • Scared of rejection
  • We change who we are as a person to fit in with others
  • Happy being a follower instead of a leader
  • We put other people ahead of ourselves and our own needs
  • We want to make other people happy

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