How to Say Yes to Saying No


Have you ever made cookies at midnight for a classroom party because someone called you with desperation in their voice? Or ended up as the chair of a committee that you really aren’t interested in, but everyone said you would do a good job? Or how about helping with a charity yard sale on your sunny day off?  I could go on, but you “yes” sayers – well, you know who you are.

So, admit it. You are over committed. You have said yes when you should have said no and now you are spending time on things you wonder how you ever got involved in, leaving you less time to do the things that really are important to you.

Why do we say yes when we really want to say no?

At the very basic level, we say yes because we want to be liked and we want to please. We want to help others, and, quite frankly, many of us are totally conflict adverse and unable to refuse a request. Often times we say “yes” instead of “no” out of guilt, inner conflict, or a misguided notion that we can do it all, or that no one else will do it if we don’t.

However, by learning to say no, you will reduce your stress level and give you more time for what’s really important to you – your goals, your vision for your life, your values, and taking care of you. And, when you learn to say no to things that don’t fit with your goals you will find time freedom and empowerment.

There are only so many hours in the day. That means that whatever you choose to take on limits your ability to do other things. So, even if you somehow can fit a new commitment into your schedule, if it’s not more important than what you would have to give up to do it (including time for yourself), you really don’t have the time in your schedule.

Yes, you can say no!

Here’s a step by step script for you to use to say no firmly and politely. I suggest practicing it and memorizing it so you will be ready to say no and then let it go.

When someone asks you to do something you want to say “no” to:

Example: Betty, will you be on the nominating committee for the incoming booster club board? You would do a great job and we are desperate! We really need you!

PART 1: Your initial response

Option 1: Thank you so much for asking. It means a lot to me that you think I can do that. I’m going to say no and encourage you to ask someone else. I wish I could help you but I can’t.
Option 2: That doesn’t work with my goals right now. Thank you for asking, but I have to say no.

Pick an option that feels most comfortable for you, or develop your own phrase and then practice it!

Now, what if they are persistent and just won’t take “no” for an answer?

PART 2But, we need you!

Here’s the second part of your script after they blather on about why you have to do it or that no one else can, or they share some other guilt inducing language.

Say: That may be true. No thank you.

If asked for an explanation, remember that you really don’t owe anyone one. It doesn’t fit with my schedule, is perfectly acceptable.

PART 3: Your final answer

If they still continue to try to convince you, lean over and whisper in their ear “no.”  Then walk away.

And remember, your no is someone else’s yes! You never know what kind of any opportunity you may be giving someone else.

So, practice your script, be ready for the ask – it may come when you least expect it or don’t have the energy to deal with it.

Take care of yourself and just say no!


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home and 52 Communication Tips

To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:

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