8 Strategies for Saying No

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Many of us are taught from a young age to be "people pleasers" who say yes to others all the time for fear of being disliked. In the workplace, it might be for fear of what the boss might say, or of being seen as someone who isn’t a "team player."

But other people’s goals are not yours, and the more you say yes to them, the more you will stray from your chosen path. If what you are being asked to do would be a real commitment in terms of time, effort, money, or another limited resource, it’s time to develop strategies for saying no. Here are some methods to try.

1. Practice Saying No and Meaning It

You can do this in front of the mirror. You can also do it with friends and family. Explain to them that things are getting a bit overwhelming and you need to pick and choose when it comes to gatherings, helping others with their chores, and so on.

2. Say No without an Apology or Excuse

If you apologize or make an excuse, it can weaken the no, sometimes to the point where a person will try to "get around you" and make you change your mind. You don’t have to justify your choice to others.

3. Make a List of Short-Term Goals

What do you want to accomplish by the end of the year? If someone makes a request, remind yourself of your goal. If it does not help you move forward toward the goal, don’t do it.

4. Thank them for Thinking of You

Tell then you are flattered that they are asking you for help, but you are either not the most capable person in that area, or you already have so much on your plate that you could not promise to get the task done within a reasonable time frame.

5. You’re Not Being Mean, Just Honest

A lot of people squirm at the idea of saying no because they think it will harm their relationship with the other person. But the way you say no should make it clear you are not rejecting them; you are simply not able to help them out on this occasion.

6. Be Firm

Some people are pushier than others. But if you give in every time they push you hard, you will never be able to say no to them and they will keep on pushing their agenda at the expense of your own. Say no firmly and change the subject. If they go back to it, remind them that you just said you really can’t help them and walk away if you have to.

7. Avoid Time Vampires

Everyone has time vampires in their lives who suck the time out of the day so that you get little accomplished for yourself. These people can be really exhausting, yet you often feel sorry for them because they are so needy or just don’t seem to be able to get their act together. Be polite if you run into them, but don’t go out of your way to spend time with them so you can avoid getting sucked into all the favors they will ask from you.

8. Only Help Those Who Help Themselves

There is no point in helping someone "get back on their feet" if they are just going to lay back down again. By all means, help if you can without compromising your own situation, but see what the person does with the help. If they come looking for favors again soon after, give them a firm no.


Use these strategies to ensure that you don't take on so much that you don't have any time left for yourself. If you say no the right way, people will respect you for it.

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