Saying No Gracefully

Apr 3, 2019
eye-for-ebony-340137-unsplash|say no|saying-no

No. Nope. No way. Not gonna happen. Negative. Forgot it. Veto. Denied. Uh-uh.

There are dozens of ways to say "no" but for such a small word - just two letters! - with so many variations, we sure do have a hard time coming up with a way to say it without feeling uncomfortable.

Saying no can increase stress and anxiety, induce feelings of guilt or shame, and even lead to arguments and tension in relationships — but it doesn’t have to. You can learn how to say "no" gracefully and positively, protecting your boundaries and health. Here are a few tips.



Know Your Boundaries

It’s fun and feels good to be helpful, so set an amount of time you can give to others each week or month. Then, honor that amount and only commit to what can be done in that amount of time. It may be an hour a day or a weekend each month of your time that is dedicated to helping others. Just as you would schedule an appointment at work, when the time is full then you can look forward to helping again next time.


Stop Apologizing

"No" is a complete sentence! You do not need to justify or explain why you cannot commit to something new. Practice a few positively-phrased responses, such as, “That sounds like fun. I’m at my limit for now.” Or, “Thank you for thinking of me. I can’t help now but I hope it goes well.” Over time, your positive, firm responses will gain respect from others who admire your honesty and balance.


Focus On What You CAN Do

Attending another office birthday party and want to avoid the cake? Bring a healthy snack for other like-minded teammates, keep a bottle of water in your hand, and keep smiling and talking. Reframing what may feel like a barrier (“I can’t have cake”) into an opportunity (“another chance to practice my mantra!”) can put the power and confidence back in your hands.

Speaking of Mantras...

When you’re surrounded by temptation and determined to maintain balance, a few trick phrases can be your secret weapon. A couple of my favorites are, “I’m saying yes to me,” or “This is temporary.” Keep your mantra positive and focused on succeeding, not resisting. You’ll leave that environment feeling like a winner, rather than deprived and depleted.

Saying no can be liberating, powerful, and even help others by opening their eyes to new, creative alternatives. It takes practice, so start with the small stuff as you build your confidence and comfort level. Before long, saying no will begin to feel like saying yes to yourself, leading you to greater levels of calm, confidence, and capacity to do your best work.


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