the art of saying no

Have you ever wondered why you find it so hard to say no? Even though your calendar is overfull and you crave some ‘me-time’?

Understanding of the brain can shed some light on this common tendency to chronically overcommitting. Our brain is programmed for survival. Back in the day the safety relationships bring was essential for survival, especially for women. Anything that could put relationships at risk, such as saying no, could mean the loss of protection from the group so our brain is wired to steer away from it.

However, nowadays this tendency of overcommitting comes with some risks such as an overcrowded calendar, rushing from one thing to the next and not really enjoying any of the things you are doing. Only saying yes to the right things means you won’t be overwhelmed and will actually be able to do what you do well and enjoy it.

Discerning when to say no is not easy. One thing that can help is, before saying yes, to pause and reflect by asking yourself is this the right thing for me? or will this bring me closer to my goals? or Is this in line with my values? if the answer is yes then you can be pretty sure it is the right thing to do.

The good news is that your relationships don’t depend on you saying yes to everything and you can say no to things without damaging the relationship. It is all about how you say no. You could use the ‘sandwich method’ meaning you start by saying something kind, then you say no and you end by saying something kind.

For example:

Saying no when someone asks for your help

I would love to help you out with the preparation of your dinner party – but I have a full on week so I can’t commit to it – if you could give me more notice next time I’d be happy to help.

Saying no to an invitation

Thank you so much for the invite, I really appreciate it – but I need to say no and prioritize some family time this weekend – Let’s catch up in a fortnight instead.

Saying no to working late

I wish I could be more flexible and work late tonight – but I have already committed to other things – If there is anything I can help with tomorrow I’m here for you.


If you are a ‘yes-person’, someone who always says yes and then regrets some of the commitments afterwards, it is likely you are stuck in a bad habit. One way to break out of a bad habit is by practising the opposite. In this case, practising your no by committing to saying “no” to at least one thing per day. Then you will find that saying no is not as bad as you made it out to be and the world doesn’t fall apart when you say no. Who knows, maybe one day you will be equally proud of what you do as of what you say no to.

1 Comment

  1. It may feel like you are disappointing others by saying no but if you constantly say yes, people will take advantage of you. Because you have said yes so many times, the other party knows exactly what to say and do to turn your “no” into “yes”.

  2. Wow. I always feel bad saying ‘NO’.

    However with these tools I may now be able to assert myself and not feel bad
    or feeling like I left others in the lurch.

  3. Hi! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to give it a look.
    I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
    Exceptional blog and amazing design.

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