6 tips for mastering the art of saying no

by Betty Lochner on March 18, 2013

I recently spent some time watching a two year old.  I remember that age – independent, dependent, stubborn, submissive- and sometimes all within a 5 minute time frame.
I spent 3 hours entertaining this sweet, energetic child. We played in the princess tent, took the dogs for a hike, made chocolate chip cookies, read books and watched cartoons.
Princess tent fun
When her mom came to pick her up – here’s what happened:
Mom: “Ava, did you have a good time?”
Ava: “No!”
Ava made me think about how easy it is for children to say what they want to say, when they want to say it — something most adults don’t do very well.


I regularly hear that the art of saying “no” is a communication challenge for many of us.

So, why don’t we just say no?

Well, for most of us, we don’t want to be thought of as uncaring, rude, or unlikable. In short, we don’t want to disappoint others.  What if they can’t find someone else?  What if they say something bad about me, or heaven forbid, don’t like me anymore?

Most of our worry is for naught.  People will generally respect you if you are honest and forthcoming. After all, you have your own priorities and needs, just like everyone else. Saying no is about respecting and valuing your time and space. And, when you say no, you are giving an opportunity to someone else to step up.

It’s really about how you say “no”, rather than the fact you’re saying no, that affects the outcome.

6 Tips you need to get to  “No”

  1. Gain confidence through practice. If you think you are going to get asked or volunteered to do something you don’t want to do, go over your script in your head, practice in front of a mirror or with a friend.
  2. Just say it.  – “Thanks for asking. No.”  – When you try to soften it by saying “I don’t think I can,” or “I’m not sure,”  you’ll most likely be asked again, until you say a firm no.
  3. Be brief. State your reason, but don’t go on about it. Avoid elaborate stories, justifications or explanations. Refer back to tip #2.
  4. Be honest. Don’t make up reasons, stretch the truth or get a friend or family member involved in an elaborate cover-up. The truth is always best. Refer back to Tip #2.
  5. Be respectful.  It can be hard to say no to so many good causes.  Acknowledge the group’s effort and good work and then say “I can’t commit at this time.” Refer back to Tip #3.
  6. Repeat as necessary.  Even if you follow all of these tips, you may still get asked more than once. When that happens, go back to Tip #2 and Just Say No.

Saying no won’t be easy if you’re used to saying yes all the time. But learning to say no is an important part of simplifying your life and managing your stress. And with practice, you will find saying no gets easier.

Do you have a Just Say No tip?  Please share it in the comments section below!


Cornerstone Coaching & TrainingBetty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and or organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit:


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