Many people have a hard time saying "No". If someone asks you for a favor or a commitment, you may feel compelled to say yes. Remember, just because you have the ability to do something doesn't mean you have to do it. Find the best way to say "No" by thinking about your personal limitations and the situation. When you respond negatively, do it politely and clearly specifying why you don't intend to exceed your limits. Learn to avoid guilt after "No" by considering that you always have the right to decline an invitation or favor. There is nothing wrong with prioritizing yourself and your mental health.
Part 1 of 3: Consider How To Say No
Step 1. Give yourself permission to say no
Many people instinctively answer "Yes" when someone asks them for a favor. Remember, you are never obliged to agree and in some cases there is nothing wrong with saying "No". Keep this in mind as you prepare to respond negatively so that it becomes easier.
- If you never say "No", this can have negative consequences. You may be encouraging others to rely too heavily on your favors. You may also be wasting too much energy and losing focus.
- If you say "Yes" too often, you can miss out on good opportunities. By spending too much time on the things you don't want to do, you won't have much for yourself.
- Spend your time on activities you really enjoy instead of just saying "Yes" instinctively. For example, if you agree to help a friend with a move for an entire weekend, you may be forced to decline an invitation for a mountain trip with another group of friends.
Step 2. Establish your personal limits
It's easier to say "No" if you have a reason to. However, it doesn't have to be a concrete reason. Many people think that if they have a chance to do something, they should do it. The reason for saying "No" may be simply to respect your personal limits. Think about the limits you want to impose and respect them with pride.
- Consider what you can reasonably do and what you really enjoy doing. You can say "No" to activities that drain your energy or distract you. You can set specific limits on what you agree to do.
- For example, you may appreciate loneliness. You can set the limit not to go out for both nights of the weekend and use it to say "No". For example: "I would like to go out with you on Saturday, but I already have a commitment on Friday. I never go out two nights in a row, because I get too tired."
- You can also impose limits on personal commitments. For example, you can follow the rule of volunteering for only two charity events per month if they are commitments compatible with your schedule.
Step 3. Pay attention to potential persuasion techniques
People often don't accept no. If you say "No" to someone, they may use strategies to try to change your mind. Get to know them, so that you remain firm in your position.
- People may try to get you to do something with guilt about an unrequited favor. Remember, just because someone did you a favor doesn't mean you owe them something. Friends don't keep score.
- People often insist. If you respond negatively to a request, they may try to get you to agree to a smaller commitment or favor. Remember to be firm. Keep saying "No".
- People may also try to get you to do something by comparing yourself to others. They can tell you that another person has already offered their help. But you are not another person. You don't have to do something just because someone else has done it.
Step 4. Practice saying "No"
It may sound silly, but you can really practice saying no on your own. Stand in front of the mirror and look yourself in the eye. Try saying a firm "No" by imagining you are talking to someone so that you feel more comfortable with the word. Many people don't say no because they feel nervous and agree to avoid anxiety. By practicing, you will ease some of that anxiety.
Part 2 of 3: Say No
Step 1. Ask for more time before making a commitment
You may have an instinct to answer "Yes" to all requests for favors. Get in the habit of not saying yes automatically right away. When asked to do something, say "I'll think about it" or "Can I let you know soon? I'd love to help you, but maybe I already have a commitment."
- Usually, saying "I'll think about it" is enough to get rid of a pushy person. This gives you time to really think about the answer.
- After saying that you will think about your answer, you can decide whether to accept or not. If you'd rather not do something, reply with a firm "No".
- For example, if a friend asks you if you can keep their cat over Christmas, you can say, "I need to check my schedule. I'll let you know."
Step 2. Start with a compliment or expressing your gratitude
Even if your "No" has to be decided, you will feel better if you are polite. When you let someone down, sweeten the pill by starting with a compliment. Express your gratitude for being invited or considered.
For example, "I'm glad you trust me enough to keep Fufi. It means a lot to me that you're willing to leave your cat with me, because I know how much you care about him."
Step 3. Answer with a clear "No"
After the initial kindness, you can say no. Make sure it is clear that you are refusing, so that the other person does not insist and repeat the request.
For example: "I just don't have time to come and go from your house this weekend. I already have commitments with my family."
Step 4. Thank and encourage the person
End the conversation on a positive note. You can be firm without being rude or aggressive. Thank the person for thinking of you and wish them luck.
For example: "Again, I'm glad you trust me. Good luck, I'm sure you'll find someone who can look after your cat."
Part 3 of 3: Avoid the Sense of Guilt
Step 1. Consider the reasons why you don't say no
If you have to learn to say "No," you probably avoid doing it out of habit. Think about the reasons that make you uncomfortable when you have to decline a request. This can help you figure out if your inability to say no is irrational.
- You may have a natural instinct to please other people and not want to make them angry.
- You might even avoid confrontations if even the smallest fights are stressful for you.
- You may worry about making people angry and getting the irrational impression that people won't like you if you say "No".
Step 2. Remember that you don't need a reason to say "No"
Some people feel compelled to have a good reason to say no, but they don't. If you don't want to do something, you can decide not to do it. Try to remind yourself of this when you can't think of a reason to say no.
- For example, if a friend invites you to a concert and you don't like live music, you can tell. Try: "No thanks. I'm not a lover of live music, so this time I have to decline your invitation."
- Or, if someone invites you to go out on a night when you feel like staying at home, you can say, "You know, I don't feel like going out tonight, maybe another time."
Step 3. Accept that the limits are personal and subjective
You have to learn to admit your limitations to be able to say "No". It is natural that your limits are different from those of other people. Don't feel uncomfortable about your personality and respect your needs.
- Our limits are a projection of our personality. Consequently, they have no intrinsic value. They are no better or worse than other people's.
- Never compare your limits to those of others. For example, you may feel guilty because a co-worker is excited about going to work parties in crowded bars, while for you these are activities you should absolutely avoid.
- Your co-worker may be more outgoing or less shy than you. There's nothing bad. You have every right to say "No" to those events, even if others participate, because they exceed your personal limits.
Step 4. Don't rethink your answer
If you have a tendency to mull over your decisions, saying "No" becomes more difficult. Once said no, accept your decision and move on.
- Focus on the positive feelings. If you said "No" to an activity that would have caused you stress or drained your energy, you should feel relieved.
- Prioritize positive feelings after saying "No". Try to avoid guilt.
Step 5. Consider that saying "No" can help you avoid resentment
If you are naturally trying to please others, you may say "Yes" even when doing so is unhealthy and thus develop resentment. For example, if you agree to help a friend whenever they need a favor, you may start to have negative feelings about them. Saying no might make you feel guilty temporarily, but it's better to deal with a momentary emotion than risk ruining a valuable relationship.
Step 6. Improve your self-esteem
The reason some people find it hard to say "No" is because they don't think their wants and needs are as important as those of others. To avoid feeling guilty after saying "No", try increasing your self-esteem. Here are some strategies to try:
- Write the list of your strengths.
- Use positive self-affirmations to encourage yourself.
- Explore your interests and make time for yourself.
- Avoid comparing yourself to other people.
- Set realistic goals.