The Art of Saying and Meaning No

Question: How can I say “No” and mean it? I often say “Yes” when I want to say “No.” I’m sure my childhood has something to do with this. I could never speak up and say what I really felt. I always had to do stuff out of duty and obligation. It sucked!

Answer: The good news is you’re an adult and can say “No” and mean it. If the people in your life get mad or upset with you it’s their issue, not yours. To quote my law professor, “Too bad, so sad” which means it’s not your problem.

Many people say “Yes” when they want to say “No.” They say ‘Yes’ out of duty, obligation, or a sense of responsibility. Meanwhile they mumble under their breath as they bake cookies, cook a meal, drive a family member somewhere because they never learned how to drive, or whatever it is they agreed to do. Don’t be one of these people! You have every right to say “No” and mean it. The key is to be nice about it. There’s no reason to get snippy.

How to Say “No” and Mean It

1. Be polite. Remain calm and simply say “No, I can’t help this time.”

2. Don’t give an elaborate explanation. There’s no reason give a lengthy explanation as to ‘why’ you can’t help. If you’re busy or will be out-of-town, mention it. You could also say, “I’m overextended right now.” Otherwise, just say “No.”

3. Accept that people be mad or upset with you. You may have to push through your people-pleasing tendencies and get over it. You can’t and won’t please everyone all of the time. You must be willing to accept this and be alright with it. It’s not your job to keep people happy; it’s their job. If you can accept that saying “No” may tick-off family, friends, PTA members, co-workers, bosses, etc. you’ll have grasped the art of saying and meaning “no.”

Whenever you’re asked to do something, don’t do it because you feel you ‘have’ to. Simply say, “I’d love to help, but I can’t.” You don’t have to go into a lengthy explanation. Of course, if you’re going on vacation or will be out-of-town, you could mention it. Please don’t lie and say you’ll be out-of-town, when in fact, you won’t be. Lying is draining and unnecessary. Chances are you will get caught.