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How to Say “No” & Why Its Important 

The ability to say no is the hallmark of healthy, assertive behavior. Passive people usually have a very difficult time saying no to the request of others. Being on the receiving end of a no can certainly be unpleasant, but saying yes because you can’t say no will often leave you feeling angry, resentful and anxious.

Whether a friend is asking you for a personal favor, you’ve received a social invitation you’d rather not attend, a co-worker or boss is asking you to take on extra work or a family member is asking you for help or money, it’s tough to say no. For individuals who are people pleasers, it’s nearly impossible.

If saying no is so important, why then is it so difficult to say no? Many people have a hard time saying no because they don’t want to be perceived as selfish, uncaring, mean, or lazy and most importantly, they want to be liked no matter the cost. But saying yes to everything, can leave you with very little time to do the things that you actually want to do and once people figure out that you have a hard time saying no, they will continue to ask.

While there is nothing wrong with doing things for others, it becomes a problem when you do keep doing favors because you are unable to say no. At first, saying no can feel uncomfortable and awkward, but with practice you will begin to see how easy it is. Following these strategies will help:

  • Be clear when saying no. Saying things like “maybe” or “I’ll think about it” comes across as wishy-washy and uncertain. This indecision can be draining for both parties and can often encourage others to push you into say yes.
  • Be honest about saying no. Lying about why you’re saying no to someone’s request can make you feel guilty and getting caught in a lie is worse than giving someone a straightforward no.
  • Don’t procrastinate. By telling someone no right away, you allow the other person to make other plans.
  • Don’t make excuses or defend yourself. Remember that you have the right to say no. Making excuses gives the impression that you can’t do what they are asking, when the truth of the matter is that you choose not to do it.
  • Don’t ask permission. An assertive no is not preceded with “Do you mind if I don’t . . . “ or “Will you be mad if I say no?”
  • Strengthen your no. If you’ve been saying yes to most requests for a long time, people likely won’t accept your refusal the first time you say no and they may push for a yes. Respond with a strong refusal, such as, “No, as I’ve said, I’m not willing to do that”.

You have the right to say no even if others might think that you are inconsiderate or selfish – sometimes they may be right. However, saying no is about being treated with respect and balancing your own wants and needs with the wants and needs of others. When you say no to others requests, there may be unpleasant consequences in how others react to your no – it is important that you acknowledge and accept this. Cousin Jeanne might really be mad when you tell her that you won’t loan her money again. She is allowed to feel whatever she feels.

At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our therapists utilize evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) methods to teach assertiveness strategies to help you manage interpersonal situations more effectively and to feel better about yourself by teaching you to say no to unreasonable requests from others, assert your rights in a non-aggressive way and negotiate what you want in your relationship with others. Learning to say no and becoming more assertive results in clearer communication skills and improved self-confidence. Don’t be afraid to say no.



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