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learn to say no
Naluri5 min read

Smarter Ways of Saying ‘No’

One of the reasons our life can be overwhelming is that we cannot say “No” to those around us. At times, we feel compelled to say ‘Yes’ rather than create conflict and hurt our relationship with others. However, saying ‘Yes’ to something means that you will have to say ‘No’ to other things that may be of more value to you. 

That is why it is important to identify the things that mean the most to you so that you can channel your precious time, energy and effort into doing something worthwhile. I

In this article, we help you learn helpful strategies to say “No” by reflecting on the thought processes accompanying the “Yes”. 

When we focus on pleasing others, we lose sight of our values and doing what’s right. Knowing our values will help us recognise our priorities in life and guide us to make better decisions and choices. 

Some of us are automatically attuned to saying ‘Yes’ without taking the time to evaluate our thoughts and feelings. Often, we regret the decisions we make. Here are some strategies we can learn to say “No”.


Learning to say “No”

When someone asks you for a favour, ask yourself: 

1. Is this something I want to do?

Some people have difficulty knowing what they want because they are used to doing things automatically without thought. Take a moment to evaluate your thoughts before saying ‘Yes’.


2. What will I have to give up by doing this?

Remember this mantra: Saying yes to …………………………… will mean saying no to …………………………… 

Doing someone else, a favour means you will have to give up something. Reflect on the consequences of saying ‘Yes’ (e.g. sacrificing time with family, not being able to hang out with friends)


3. What will I gain by doing this? 

Think about the potential benefit of saying ‘Yes’. (e.g. helps improve your skills, widens social network)


4. How will I feel if I do it?

Pay attention to your feelings and emotions. Take time to imagine how you will feel as you weigh your options. (e.g. angry, resentful, happy, proud)

Once you have evaluated your options, you can confidently say “No”. It may be challenging at first, but with time and practice, it does become easier. Also, know that it is alright not to have an excuse about why you cannot do something.

Here are some helpful phrases you can incorporate next time you want to politely decline to do a favour from a friend or your co-worker:


“I wish I could but I’m not going to be able to do that”

“I apologise but I’m not able to commit to that right now” 

“I’m going to say no for now. I’ll let you know if something changes” 

“I really appreciate you asking me, but I am not able to do that” 

“No, I cannot do that, but here is what I can do...”


Learning to say ‘No’ to a person of authority

Often, we feel afraid or hesitant to say ‘No’ to a person of higher authority, such as our boss or supervisor. As a result, we feel overwhelmed and overburdened with the workload that is piling up. But don’t worry; it is a skill that can be learnt. Here are some ways to say ‘No’ to a person of a higher authority diplomatically. 


Situation 1: You Truly Don’t Have the Time

Instead of saying:

“I don’t have the time to do that.”

You can say:

“Could you help me prioritise my project list for this week?”

Instead of saying ‘No’,  lay out what you are currently working on, how much time you would need to invest in each task and what you may need to de-prioritise if you take on the newly assigned task. 

That way, you allow your boss to weigh in on what is most important and help you re-evaluate your current task. 


Situation 2: You Disagree with the Strategy at Hand

Instead of saying:

“I don’t think that will work.”

You can say:

“Can I throw out another idea?”

Sometimes, we may disagree and have a different viewpoint from our boss. Instead of rejecting the approach your boss proposed, take the initiative to suggest a fresh idea. Your boss will either say ‘yes’ and consider your proposed idea or say ‘no’. 

But here’s the amazing part: If your boss says ‘yes’, that’s great! It means that he/she is open to new ideas and welcomes brainstorming, which encourages creativity among the team. 


Taking back your power: benefits of saying ‘No’

When you stop worrying about pleasing everyone and focus on what matters most, you’ll regain the strength to say ‘No’. Let’s look at several benefits of this: 


1. Increased self-confidence

When you accept that you cannot make everyone happy, you will gain more confidence in your choices. You will feel content with your decisions even when others may disagree. 

2. Establish healthier relationships

When you set healthy boundaries and become assertive, other people will develop more respect for you. This will help improve your communication and prevent building anger and resentment towards others. 

3. Strengthen willpower

Studies have shown that people who make choices out of their own free will rather than to please someone else have much more willpower. You will be more motivated to keep doing the work when you’re convinced it is the best choice for you. 

4. More time and energy devoted to your goals

Instead of becoming the person others want you to be, you get to focus your time and energy on improving yourself and taking steps to achieve your goals.  


This article was brought to you by Naluri Mental Health Coaches. Naluri empowers you to develop healthy lifestyle habits, achieve meaningful health outcomes, and be healthier and happier through personalised coaching, structured programmes, self-guided lessons, and health tools and devices. Download the Naluri App today or contact for more information on utilising digital health coaching and therapy to become a happier, healthier you.

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