The Tension Before “No” and How to Actually Say “No”

Everywhere I look I see articles about the importance of saying “no.”

I agree with what they say.

Saying no leads to better pace, doing more of what you want, and more happiness overall.

But saying no is hard.

A lot of people tell us to do it, but exactly how do you do it?

If you are the pleaser type, like me, saying no is especially difficult.

It feels like there is this moment of tension right before you say it.

It is the moment where I used to hesitate and think about what everyone else wanted me to do.

This tension is what led to many reluctant “yes” responses for me.

I learned that this “tense” moment is when I need to do the following:

1. Give myself response time

Do not respond impulsively. Breathe and take in the question or request fully.

If the request doesn’t need an immediate answer, tell them you will let them know your answer in the next day or two.

If the request does need a same day answer, tell them you will get back to them in an hour.

Even 1 hour of extra time to think can help you make a better decision.

Always give yourself time to think.

2. Imagine the event is tomorrow

Kevin read this advice awhile back and it really resonates with me.

Imagine the event is tomorrow. Do you still want to do it? How excited or committed do you feel? If dread is your first feeling, that is usually a good indicator to say no.

The idea is simply this: if you aren’t excited about it now, you won’t be excited about it later.

3. No apologies

This is still hard for me. I am tempted to start every “No” with “I’m sorry.”

Be firm and don’t feel bad about it.

Example: “I am so sorry, I wish I could help. Next time for sure!”

Instead you could say, “No, I can’t help with that, but I hope the event goes well.”

The second response is not only more firm but also clearer.

4. Actually follow up

Many have heard the phrase “90% of life is showing up.”

It applies here too. “90% of saying no is actually saying no.” You have to follow up.

If you said you would respond in an hour or a day, do it.

Don’t be flaky and never respond.

It might feel easier in the moment to say nothing, but you won’t feel good about it later. (Trust me, I have been flaky before).


I wish I could say I always execute these steps perfectly, but I am not perfect.

What I can say is this plan has helped me say no more often and more confidently.

I commit to things I want to and say no to things I don’t want to do.

And as I grow in this area of my life, my happiness grows too.

-Brittany

One comment

  1. Dear Brittany, I so needed to read this right now! To think of these reassuring steps as a plan makes a big difference to me (big pleaser over here too) and gives me courage that I too can make space to think/feel and say no where I have to. Thank you for your inspiring writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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