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?

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. We want to please and help others out, but also we are generally conflict adverse and unable to refuse a request. Often times we say “yes” instead of “no” out of guilt, inner conflict, loyalty to a person, or a misguided notion that we can please everyone.

However, by learning how to say no you will reduce your stress level and give you more time for what’s really important to you. That includes your goals, your vision for your life, your values, and taking care of you.

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!

One of the most important things to do before you say yes or no to a request is to separate the decision you need to make from the person who is making the request.

  • Decide if you want to accept the request based on what is right for you, not the person making the ask.
  • Think of the trade-offs if you decide to say yes. What will you need to give up? Sleep? A different opportunity? Time with your kids?
  • If you decide to say no, be okay with the possibility of disappointing someone. Remind yourself why you are choosing no and be okay with it.
  • Keep in mind that a clear no is more respectful than a vague or non committed yes. It’s also better than not being able to do a good job at what you are being asked to do.

Once you’ve decided that no is the right answer, 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 when it’s least expected.

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 need to say no and encourage you to ask someone else. I wish I could help you but I can’t this time.

Option 2: Thank you for asking. I am over-committed and have to say no. 

Option 3:  When you truly want to help, but want to call the shots on how much time is involved. I can’t do all of that, but I could do this piece of that.

Pick an option that feels most comfortable for you, or develop your own  and then practice it. The key here is to plan ahead and be ready.

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, or I’m over-committed right now is a perfectly appropriate response and it is enough. Be a broken record if you need to.

PART 3: Your final answer

If they still continue to try to convince you, smile, 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 and 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 coaches small business managers on HR issues and provides training on workplace communication to organizational groups.

In addition, she hosts a twice-annual Women’s Summit that brings women together to learn how to become more confident communicators.

Join the Community

Want to connect with other women learning how to communicate with confidence? Join my free group here.


Tags: , , ,

Both comments and pings are currently closed.