How To Stop Saying ‘Yes’ When You Really Mean ‘No’


4 Tips To Help You Say No


Do you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to things that you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do? Do you often say ‘yes’ when you actually mean ‘no’? Have you reached a point where you feel angry and resentful towards people who ask you to do things?

Saying yes to everyone can leave you with not much time for yourself

Saying yes to everyone can leave you with no time for you

It’s not uncommon. A lot of people find it incredibly difficult to be assertive and say no to others. Helping others can be a positive thing, but not being able to say ‘no’ when you need to can leave you over-committed and unnecessarily stressed, which can put you at risk for depression and anxiety long term. So why is it that such a simple, two letter word can be so hard to say?

We tend to have beliefs about saying no that can be unhelpful. For example, we may believe that it’s rude or selfish to say no when someone asks you to do something, or we worry that we might hurt the other person’s feelings and that they might not like us anymore. Some of us may even have the belief that we should always try to please others or that other’s needs are more important than our own.

These beliefs aren’t always true, and there are other things to consider that might make it easier to say no to others. For instance, when you say no, you’re refusing a request not rejecting a person. We also tend to over-estimate how hard it is for others to hear us say no and it’s helpful to remember that the person you say no to probably won’t take it nearly as personally as you’re assuming they will. We don’t trust that others can handle our refusal, but chances are they’ll understand.

Here are some useful and effective strategies for saying ‘no’ that allow you to make the point clearly without offending the other person.

Tip #1: Say ‘No’ Directly

When someone asks you to do something you don’t want to, just say ‘no’. Sometimes it’s ok to be straightforward and honest, but not rude, so that you can make the point effectively. You don’t have to apologise either.

Tip #2: Say ‘No’ While Reflecting Feelings

When you reflect back the other person’s feelings you show the person you understand how they feel. For example, “I know you’re looking forward to catching up after work, but I can’t make it today.”

Tip #3: Say ‘No’ And Give A Brief And Genuine Reason

For example, “I can’t meet you for dinner tonight because I really need to get my uni assignment done”. If you genuinely want to meet the request, you can also leave room for saying yes in the future. For example, “I can’t have dinner with you tonight, but I can make it sometime next week”.

Tip #4: Say ‘No’ + Repeat (The Broken Record Technique)

Sometimes saying no once isn’t enough and people can be really persistent, especially if they know that you can be easily persuaded to change your mind. When you’re faced with this it can be handy to repeat a simple statement of refusal over and over, so you don’t have to keep coming up with something new to say. The other person will quickly get the message and stop asking.

Pascale is a clinical psychologist who is passionate about empowering people to create change. She is warm and empathic and is dedicated to providing evidence based psychological care. Pascale has extensive experience working with adults and adolescents with a variety of psychological disorders including depression, panic attacks, social anxiety, generalised anxiety, health anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, specific phobias, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.


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