The Importance Of Learning How To Say No

There are some people for whom no is the hardest word. Here are some insights on this particular problem and some suggested solutions.


People who have a hard time saying no usually end up with a thousand things on their plate, exhausted and frustrated. They have incredible high expectations about themselves and don’t like disappointing others.

No should be one the most important tools in our mental belt. It helps us assert and defend our individuality and autonomy, with great benefits for our wellbeing.

The most common reasons why people cannot say no are:

  • They are afraid they might hurt other people’s feelings
  • They go out of their way to avoid conflict
  • They consider it an impolite and unhelpful way to respond

Sometimes, we give out unconscious signals that we don’t really want to do the things that we are asked to do (long pauses, body language clues, etc). But these are not enough, since people might choose to ignore these signals.

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There is another, evolutionary reason why we don’t say no. The need to belong to a certain community, to conform to its rules and not to do anything that could attract its negative response might be another explanation for our inability to say no.

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Another important aspect to the problem is that the more empathic you are, the more probable it is you’ll have troubles saying no. When you care deeply about other’s feelings, when you imagine the inconvenience and frustration your negative response might cause, you’ll tend to make greater efforts to please them.

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One solution to this is to take into consideration the fact that your refusal won’t be such a shock for others and that they will find another way to solve their problem. You are not the only one who can help them so you shouldn’t consider yourself as such. Don’t overestimate how offended they would be in case you are not available to help.

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Another solution is to give clear reasons and to have a story in mind that could justify your refusal. Don’t just say no, explain how busy you are or how you’ve already committed yourself to something else.

For things to go easier, it’s a good idea to practice saying no. Rehearse the response in your head before saying it to another person. Also, while delivering the answer, try to stay calm and not reveal any doubt or anger. Think of the benefits the response will have: more free time for you, the possibility to help someone else etc.

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Don’t forget that saying no from time to time is empowering and an opportunity to free yourself from the need to please everybody. Learning to resist this kind of social pressure will make you respect yourself more and become a more independent person. Please, share this!