There comes a time in our lives where we decide that we need to start saying ‘no’ to people. This ability did not come to me until I was in my very late 20s. I’ve always been a generous and giving person and, eventually, I figured out that I was allowing myself to be taken advantage of, spreading myself to thin and beginning to feel resentful — mostly from saying ‘yes’ to requests from others. I’d say ‘no’ but, somehow, it would get turned around on me. At that time I did not understand why, or how.
Although I have no problem with it anymore, at the time it was very difficult to simply say ‘no’.
For reasons unknown, I felt I had to justify my reasoning or thought process,
I felt guilty,
I thought people might not like me … you know what I mean — it’s likely the same ‘loop’ that runs through your mind.
Don’t worry, you’ll come away from this article with actual ‘scripts’ to get you started in practicing “how to say ‘no’ … nicely”
If you’re between the ages of 28 and 35, this is likely one of your greatest challenges right now. You might wonder how I would intuit that, or if I’m psychic.
That’s what I would have thought at some point, if someone had said that to me when I was going through that ‘stage’. I didn’t know it was a stage (as usual) except in hindsight.
This is very common when you change gradually. You are unaware of the changes until, one day, you happen to look back and recognize that something has changed and that something is you. It is not something you can usually pinpoint … well, unless it’s a definite ‘AH HA’ moment.
The challenge of saying ‘no’ is actually easily understood – if you know the reasoning behind it. You’re simply completing a stage of life where you’ve been giving selflessly to others – showing your love by doing for others, sharing with others, always giving, giving and more giving. When you were learning about and coming from your heart chakra.
This is a normal pattern in the cycle of life.
This new ‘stage’ of life, also referred to as the ‘5th or Throat Chakra’ (more on chakras in the future). It is a time of learning to speak your truth, voice your opinions, express your thoughts and feelings, communicate more clearly and effectively.
Many people experience ear and/or throat infections from about 25 to 30 years of age.
If this happens to be true for you, consider the possibility that you may need to say what you mean a little more clearly (or emphatically, or follow through on what you said).
Bonus Aside — Learn More
I’ve found Louise Hay’s book ‘Heal Your Body A-Z’ which is written from the concept of ‘the mental causes for physical illness and the way to overcome them’ to be a wonderful helping guide over the past decade. In her book, Louise states that ‘throat problems’ have a probable cause with ‘the inability to speak up for oneself; swallowed anger; stifled creativity; refusal to change.’ She then suggests a new thought pattern to incorporate in your life.
No matter what your age, there are many other reasons why you may be unable to utter the word ‘no’ (and mean it), especially to close friends, family members or authority figures such as your boss.“Heal Your Body A-Z” by Louise Hay
Think back and see if you can remember a specific time or situation where you really wanted to say ‘no’ but for some reason were unable to.
Now, thinking about that situation, go a little deeper. Are you able to put your finger on the reason or justification you had to yourself for not saying ‘no’? It may have been an obligation of some form, a fear of a consequence or result, lack of practice, simply a habit done without thought.
If you cannot come up with a reason off the top of your head, do not worry about it. Set it aside for now. At some point, it may pop into your head. It may not and that’s OK too.
If the reason came into your head and you immediately questioned or denied it, perhaps you may wish to consider why you did so. Instead of looking at the reason, look at the question or denial in its own right.
In that brief exercise, we are simply discussing being aware of why you did not say ‘no’. There is no judgment whatsoever. There is no right or wrong. It is simply who you were in the moment.
Through the act of awareness itself, a message is sent to the subconscious mind. Sometimes, that simple act is all that is required to jump start building a new thought pattern for the future. The immediate question or denial of the awareness of a reason for why you did what you did could be your ego getting in the way of change. Ego generally does not like change, especially if it is a new concept for you. Ego likes things just the way they are.
With time and practice of awareness, the ego will eventually learn to accept that as your normal behaviour and will become comfortable with the change you have incorporated into your life. It will become a non-issue.
So, you’re saying “That’s great, Sue, but HOW do I actually do it? I’m getting frustrated. Give me some words I can use!”
This was exactly the way I felt back when I was learning to say ‘no’. I simply didn’t know how to approach it without being rude, hurting people’s feelings or justifying myself.
I felt that if I didn’t justify why I was saying ‘no’ people wouldn’t actually believe that I meant it (particularly when relatives or friends asked or begged me for money). After all, I’d said ‘no’ before and then relented when people pressured me. I had created a pattern where others saw that I could be talked back into whatever they had originally wanted if they kept pestering me.
Does that sound familiar?
Here are a few suggestions that helped me in the beginning. With practice, I’m getting very good at saying ‘no’. I no longer feel obligated to justify my decision or discuss/justify the reasoning behind it. It’s my decision. That’s it. I am not attached in any way to how they feel about it or what their reaction is because, in reality, both their feelings and their reactions are their issues, not mine.
People stopped expecting me to say ‘yes’. They learned, over time, as I got better at meaning it myself, that ‘no’ meant exactly that.
The best thing — they respect me even though I say ‘no’.
“Sue, I want some actual words to use!”
Yes, I know you do. And I will give you some examples. Bear in mind, though that we all have different personalities and ways to word things that are authentic for us. A little reminder: when you say ‘no’, say it with compassion and mean it. And, say it in your words, not mine.
Make It Your Own
Use the following examples and WRITE OUT what you would say instead of these words if you are uncomfortable with them. Practice saying them to yourself until you mean them and they flow naturally. Everyone has their own way of expressing ideas and words that they are comfortable with.
For the beginner, try this:
“I’m really booked right now. I don’t know if I fit that in my schedule. Let me check (with my husband/wife/partner and/or my calendar) and get back to you.”
This method could be misconstrued as avoidance. And, it is avoidance if you choose to use it that way by not getting back to the person as you said you would.
Get back to them after a reasonable amount of time … and time is relative to what is being asked of you. If they need an answer the next day, call them today so they have time to find someone else. Waiting until the last minute to say ‘no’ is inconsiderate, rude and disrespectful to the person who asked for your help. It puts them in an uncomfortable situation. True, they may not ask you again, but they will remember how you handled the situation. It is not, as we refer to it in our family, ‘taking the high road’.
Saying ‘no’ is not rude, inconsiderate nor disrespectful. It is how it is said that makes it so.
For someone who has practiced the beginner method for a while and is comfortable, try this:
“I’m sorry. I would like to help, but I can’t do it right now.” (Insert offer to help with something else or another time here if suitable and true.)
This method requires no getting back to anyone, no avoidance and no delays. You’ve said ‘no’ in a nice way. If you really would like to help and could do so at some other time, say so and/or make a suggestion when, where and what you would be willing to help with. The person on the receiving end will appreciate your honesty and will contact you again.
Once you feel comfortable with that, you can move on to simply saying:
“Sorry. No.” (unless you’re not sorry of course)
This implies that you choose to say ‘no’ which is, in fact, exactly what you are doing. No excuses. You simply are not doing whatever is asked. If you are not sorry that you are saying ‘no’, you could say: “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m saying ‘no’ on this.” That statement doesn’t say you are sorry, it says you are sorry to disappoint them which, most likely, you are.
The highest evolution I’ve managed:
“I choose not to.”
It has taken me a couple decades of evolution to get to the point where I now simply stand in my power (energetically with compassion and detachment) say: “I choose not to” while looking directly at the person requesting.
It takes time for you to adapt to saying ‘no’ and it takes more time for those around you to adapt to you saying it, especially if you’ve been a ‘yes’ person for a long time.
So … practice, practice, practice.
By the way, this method makes it much easier to say an enthusiastic ‘yes’ when you want to!
The ability, or inability, to say ‘no’ is part of the ‘boundary’ mirror. We’ll talk about ‘money mirrors’ further at another time.
You may not realize it … when you say ‘no’ you are setting boundaries. Others begin to become aware of your boundaries. With time, you will find that most people will respect you more when you have clear boundaries. And, as a bonus, you are empowering them to be more aware of their boundaries, letting them know that it is ‘ok’ to say ‘no’ and to be true to themselves. All those within your circle of influence are affected by this empowerment.
Do you realize the amazing, empowering affect you can have within your circle of influence? Do you see how this can grow as we share our personal growth and journey with others?