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  • suzemcnee

Is it time to say “No”?

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

So many of us have very busy and demanding lives often juggling work demands with our home and family responsibilities. This can feel even more challenging with “working from home” as the separation between home and work is no longer as clearly defined.

In our careers and lives we now have an abundance of choices that were unheard of in previous generations. The phones in our hands are mini computers that allow us to be in contact with everyone at all times. Also we make a huge number of daily choices about what to eat, what to wear, how long we work for etc.

There are things other people expect us to do - things we need to do and things we want to do. For so many this creates a feeling of overload. We have an ever growing number of choices and tasks and it's stressing us out!

So often the habit of saying “Yes” to every opportunity or request that comes our way can lead to us feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

By saying “Yes” to one thing, means we are saying "No" to something else. For example, by saying "Yes" to long working hours you're saying "No" to family time or time for you to recharge your batteries.

As a child when you first learned to say “No” you probably loved the feeling of not having to do as you were told. As we get older we often feel that saying “No” is selfish. We learn that by saying “Yes” it can help us to feel safe, accepted and loved.

As an adult you have the choice to say “Yes” or “No” to the requests and demands asked of you but saying “No” is often easier said than done.

So how can we learn to say “No” gracefully?

1. Take your time before answering a request with 'Yes' or 'No'

If your normal response to a request in work or at home is to say “Yes”, practise delaying your reply by saying something like “I’m not sure if that will work, can I get back to you in a couple of hours/days?”

2. Tune in to your values

It’s so much easier to say “No” if what you’re saying no to comprises your values. Research shows that living our lives according to our values is beneficial for our health and wellbeing. When we feel the tension between what we feel is right and what someone is asking us to do, we can experience internal conflict. Knowing and understanding your values and tuning into them can help us to say “No” more easily.

3. Separate the person from the request

Remember saying “No” to someone’s request is not about saying no to the person but the request. We’re so often worried about hurting people’s feelings that we don’t do what’s right for us.

4. What’s the benefit or loss?

Rather than thinking about what you fear you will lose by saying “No” think about what are the benefits to you e.g. more time and energy for those you love and care about. Also consider what you may lose by saying “Yes”, possibly time for you to recharge and relax or time to do things you really want to do.

5. Respond in a graceful way

For those who find it hard to say “No” for fear of offending or upsetting the other person the intention is to do so in a graceful way. Here are two ideas for ways of saying “No”:

a. “I’d love to help but it just doesn’t work for me to do that now, but can I suggest…” (and come up with someone else who may be able to help).

If asked why it doesn’t work, avoid getting drawn into a long explanation which could lead to counter arguments and you giving in and saying YES.

Keep repeating “It really just doesn’t work for me right now”.

b. “I’d love to help but I have a lot on at the moment and really couldn't do justice to what you need.”

Then firmly explain why you really couldn’t do justice to what is needed and if they persist go back to “It really doesn't work for me”.

6. Saying “No” in the workplace

It can be more challenging to say in a workplace especially if you have a reputation for being a capable multitasker. Saying “Yes” repeatedly can lead to overwhelm and burnout. Here are some suggestions for looking after yourself and saying “No”.

a. When feeling overwhelmed with work

“I can’t see how I can fit this in for when you want it in addition to what you have already requested. Where would you prefer I direct my attention?”

b. Saying “Yes” without over committing Sometimes you are asked to do something you would really like to get involved with but don’t have the time. When this happens, suggest or ask how you can contribute in a way that works for you in the time you want to commit. This will keep you involved but on your terms.

7. Be sympathetic but firm

In all your newly acquired ways of how to say NO, be sympathetic but firm. Don’t over apologise for your NO. Show empathy for their situation but in a way that lets them know your mind will not be changed.

Hopefully these ideas will help you to reflect on the benefits of learning to say “No” and give you the confidence and ways of doing so when you need to.

In the words of Claudia Black “Saying No is the ultimate self-care.”

If you would like greater support in working out your values; finding a work life balance or developing positive and healthy relationships then please get in touch. I have a number of programmes that could help you towards the life you want and deserve. Details of my programmes are on the wellbeing page of my website:

Alternatively email


07858 463935


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