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Is It Hard for You to Say “No”?

Some people say “no” so easily. Those who have a tendency to please, however, automatically say “yes” to whatever somebody else wants. If you’re a “yes” person, there’s no time like the present to learn a new skill.

Your goal is not to become a naysayer. Not at all. But if “no” is not in your vocabulary, then yesterday’s “yes” will be tomorrow’s regret.

We all need to create boundaries on our time (No, I don’t have the time today to do this), energy (No, I’m too exhausted to tackle this now), and space (No, shut the door, I need some privacy right now). If you neglect to actively create these boundaries, it won’t be long till you find yourself feeling overburdened and overcommitted.

Want an added incentive to say “no?” It increases the value of your “yes.” When you are at someone’s beck and call, it typically results in your being less respected and less appreciated. Whoever said life is fair?

If saying “no” is not natural for you, you’re a pleaser. You don’t like to disappoint people, hurt their feelings, or be rude. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed, we need a lot more of that in society. Civility and manners are important. So, if you wish to learn how to say “no,” it helps if you can to say it in a way that sits well with your personality.

Hence, stay away from the blunt “NO!” and the oppositional “NO, I won’t do it.”  These types of retorts are not for you — except in unusual circumstances. Instead, focus on the polite “no.”

Here are examples of how you can be caring and courteous and still say “no.”

  • No, I won’t be able to go with you, but thanks for asking me.”
  • “No, I wouldn’t mind doing that for you but I just don’t have the time.”
  • “No, I can’t drive you now but if you still need a ride, I’ll be free after 5.”
  • “No, sorry – I’m working right now and I need to be by myself for a while.”
  • “No, I can’t help you right now and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t speak to me with that tone of voice.”

As I’m sure you know it’s not easy to change our patterns. Hence, if you’d love to be able to say “no,” yet the word sticks in your throat, here’s how to rehearse and practice your new skill.

  1. Stand tall in front of a mirrorSmile. Forget about all your imperfections and focus on the beautiful person you are. Breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly. Then say in a pleasant voice, “No, sorry, but I won’t be able to _________.” There you took the first step.
  2. Practice talking back to commercialsSit forward in your chair. Each time you hear a commercial you don’t like, talk back to it in a strong voice, “No, I won’t ask my doctor if your dopey drug is right for me. And furthermore, why are all the side effects of your drugs in such small print? You don’t want people to read them, do you?” Soon, you’ll feel more confident saying “no,” thanks to all the practice you’ll get from talking back to ads that turn you off.
  3. Write down what you’d like to say to someone in your life who is disrespectful of your time, energy or space. Say the words out loud. How do they sound? Not thrilled with them? Revise them. Say the words out loud again. Keep revising until you know you’ve got it right. Now, repeat the words using a different tone of voice. Do it again. Which tone of voice do you think is right for you? Great! You’ve got the words; the tone of voice. Now just make sure your timing is right and you’ll be ready to roll.

Remember, you don’t need to be nasty to say “no.”  Indeed, you can be pleasant and polite, yet still be in charge of your priorities.

© 2017

Is It Hard for You to Say “No”?

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

Dr. Linda Sapadin, psychologist, success coach and author is proud to announce the publication of her new book, Overcoming Your Procrastination: College Student Edition – Advice for 6 Personality Styles available on Amazon. Now more than ever with remote learning, this book is a must-have. If you’re a perfectionist, dreamer, worrier, crisis-maker, defier or please, grab your copy. No longer a student? Get my book How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age – 6 Change Programs for 6 Personality Styles. Visit to subscribe to my free e-newsletter. Contact her at

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APA Reference
Sapadin, L. (2018). Is It Hard for You to Say “No”?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 25 Oct 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.