Learning to Say No

Learning to Say No

Getting Started

Do you often say yes when you'd rather say no? Maybe you agree to something because it feels easier in the moment. But you regret it later. Think of your thoughtful no as an act of kindness for your future self. Here are some tips on how to do it.

  • Write down how often you say yes and how it makes you feel.

    What did you say yes to that felt bad? What did you say yes to that felt good? Include details. For example, write about where you were, who else was there, and why you said yes.

  • Give yourself permission to say no.

    You know what's best for you. And your needs are important. Tell yourself it's okay and healthy to take care of yourself.

  • Practice saying no.

    Practice with a friend you trust. If this feels awkward, do it in front of your mirror or your pet. Use "I" statements and kind words. For example, say, "Thank you for the invite, but I prefer to stay home tonight."

  • Get the details before saying yes or no.

    Listen closely. Be curious and ask questions. Then take some space to think about your answer. Give a thoughtful answer that feels good to you.

  • Be calm and firm when giving your no.

    If you have big feelings, take a moment to self-soothe. You can focus on your breath. Take a long breath in through your nose. And breathe it out through your mouth. You can do this a few times. When you feel calmer, give your answer.

  • Be clear with your no.

    If you mean, "I'd rather do it another time," then say that. Or if you mean, "I prefer not to do it," then say that. Don't frame your no as a question. And try to keep your tone of voice firm, not apologetic.

  • Say yes when you really want to.

    A thoughtful no may lead you to a thoughtful yes. Agree to activities, projects, and other stuff that you know make your life better.


Current as of: June 16, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine

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