Do you often feel stretched to your limits and yet still struggle to say no? You’re not
alone. As you have probably experienced, saying yes when we really want to say no creates stress and frustration. On the other hand, saying no to the things you don’t want to do means saying YES to things YOU choose to do. Consider the following tips to say no in a respectful and assertive way.
1. Take time before responding.
Especially for anything that will take your time, energy or money. This will give you time to consider if fits with your current priorities and
commitments. Out of respect, provide a specific time for when you will give your
2. Consider your relationship.
How you say no to your boss or family member is going to be very different than how you would say no to a telemarketer.
3. Say no.
The word no has power. Don’t be afraid to use it. If you use phrases such as “I’m not sure” or “I don’t think I can” they may be interpreted to mean that you might say yes later.
One way to say no, especially to those that you don’t have a close or ongoing relationship
with, is with the broken record technique. In a firm but calm voice say no, without any
excuse or explanation that others may be able to manipulate, and repeat it like a broken
record. This is especially effective with persistent children or people with whom you
don’t have an ongoing relationship.
On the other hand, if the relationship is valuable, after saying no you may want to provide a brief reason or explanation. An explanation is most effective when it is honest and only contains pertinent information, not apologies or long justifications If manipulation begins, use the broken record technique.
Stay strong, and ignore appeals, guilt playing, and button pushing. Remember, if you give
in after several times of saying no it teaches others that you will eventually give in if they
push hard enough.
4. Seek for a win/win.
If you want to say yes, but not to the whole request, you may want to negotiate what you are willing to do or offer a suggestion that will work for both of you. Even though you may be saying no when others would prefer you were saying yes, you can still maintain and build relationships by offering a win/win situation for both parties.
If you aren’t used to saying no, realize that those around you might not like it when you do. Over time, they will likely learn to accept it and may even respect you for it. Also keep in mind that when you expect others to respect you when you say no, you should respect them when they say no as well.
Research provided by Naomi Brower
Luskin, F. & Pelletier, K. R. (2005). Stress-free for good: 10 scientifically proven life skills for health and happiness. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
The Mayo Clinic. (2016, April 23). When to say no. Retrieved from: