skip to main | skip to sidebar


How to Say No

Don't you just hate to use the 'N' word? You want to say no but it's difficult. Difficult because you believe there's a negative consequence in saying no. You fear that it may back-fire on you in future, you fear that they may react negatively or perceive you in a negative light; in the end, you just prefer to say yes than to worry about any of the above.

There are several common reasons on the surface that could explain why you find it hard to say 'No'.

#1 You feel guilty all the time.

You don't want to appear selfish and you don't want to appear like you're not helpful. You feel that it's your social responsibility to say yes to your friends and it's your professional responsibility to say yes to your boss or colleagues.

If this is why you find it difficult to say no, then ask yourself if that's true.

• Is it true that just because you're saying no, you're not a helpful person? Haven't you already help them so many times in the past which more than qualifies you as a helpful person?

• Is it true that it's your responsibility to help your friends, family, boss or colleague? Or is it their responsibility to help themselves to begin with and they are just dumping their responsibilities onto you?

Realize that if it's not your problem and not something you like to deal with, it's your right to say 'No' because you have no obligation to say 'Yes'. You have the freedom to choose consciously to say yes, but that's only if you really want to.

#2 You don't have a good reason to say 'No'.

Just admit it. Sometimes, we feel lazy and just don't want to do anything. Saying no becomes difficult because laziness is not exactly a concrete reason for us to say 'No'; it'll just make us look bad.

If this is your case, ask yourself if there's any valid reason to say yes.

If the request is important; a matter of life-and-death, I believe you would've said yes because the importance of the circumstances transcends your laziness. But if what they're requesting is not exactly a matter of life-and-death, you shouldn't worry what they'll think when you say "Nah… I'm feeling lazy."

Come on, do you seriously think that people don't know you're a lazy bum by now? If you have any real friends they'll know you're lazy. So there's no need to hide, just tell them the truth. If it's something unimportant that will not matter in 5 years or even in 5 weeks, it's not going to be a big deal for anybody.

Do you remember the last time somebody turned you down on a small and unimportant request? Of course not; no one does.

Okay, now we go into the real stuff. If you know it in your heart that the answer is 'No', here are some difficult people to say no to and how you can say no to them:


The authority can mean your boss, a senior colleague or a person of a higher circumstantial rank. This is usually someone who intimidates you, so saying 'no' naturally can be difficult (especially when you're not on very comfortable terms with them so to speak).

So if you need to take 'soft' approach, start with a sincere apology when you reject or decline their request, offer a concise explanation because they'll need it, and end your explanation with an offer for a possible solution. Examples as below:

• "I'm really sorry but I cannot say yes to this now, I'm up to my nose with work and I really need to take a break. If it's not urgent, can I get back to this later?"

• "I'm really sorry but I'm not able to take this up now, I've several other reports with deadlines closing in fast. But looking at this, I do have someone in mind who might be able to get this done, would that help?"

• "I'm sorry, the current circumstances does not allow me to do this. I'm in a middle of something important that needs my utmost focus. Do you need me to get someone else to handle this for you?"

• "I'm sorry but I'll have to say no, I'm a little stretched too thin right now and I'm worried if I take this on I might not be able to do a good job. Can I get back to you on when I'll be able to take this on? Just need to check my schedule."

If you have a better reason or a better solution in mind, by all means, use it. The key though, is to be honest and sincere. Seniors can spot a junior's honesty and sincerity; make no mistake about that. Once your rejection has been accepted gracefully by the other party, end the conversation with a: "Thanks for your understanding, much appreciated."

Again; honesty and sincerity is of utmost importance. Be grateful that "the authority" has just accepted your rejection: they came out as the bigger person by letting you off the hook. So say thank you and mean it!


The pusher is someone who always has a personal agenda in getting you to say 'Yes'. It could be they're trying to make you do something for them or they're trying to sell you something, etc. They push because they think they can make you bend over if they push hard enough.

The key is to stand firm and reject them confidently: a short "No, thank you." would do.

They may follow up with a "Why Not?"

If you have a solid reason, by all means go for it. But if you don't have one, don't worry. You don't owe them an explanation and you can repeat your answer without answering their question, "No thanks, I really want to pass."

However, my personal favorite (when I don't have a solid reason) is to always tell them: "I'm NOT going to make up excuses and lie to you. I'm going to say no, as I've said before and I hope you can understand. Can we change subjects?"

That's a very useful line. The key is to say it with total conviction, don't raise your voice, don't appear confrontational, and don't show the slightest hint of fear or uncertainty. I'll usually focus my intonation on the question, and show just a slight tone of irritation. They'll usually get the message and stop pursuing.

"A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble." -- Mahatma Gandhi

It will take some time to muster sufficient courage to say that – if you are the type that hates even healthy debates or rational confrontations. But I assure you that mastering the courage to say 'No' will help you go a long way in life: The more you say "Yes" to the things you don't want, the more you say "No" to the things you do want.

Read that last sentence again and think about it.


The puller is the opposite of the pusher. Instead of pushing, they get on your guilt-nerves. Sometimes they're so good you just can't be sure if they're doing it intentionally or if they're doing it subconsciously.

Either way, it sucks if you have a weak spot for guilt. They'll usually ask, then beg, then try to make themselves appear as desperate as ever and it kills you to say 'No' to a helpless friend.

Dig into your memory, "Pullers" are creatures of habits. You can always remember previous similar occasions when they asked, then begged, then appeared desperately in need of your help. They also usually prey on those who always say 'yes' to them!

So if you've already said 'yes' a few times to a "Puller", you're only digging a bigger and bigger grave for yourself. Shucks!

• Again, it might be helpful if you are courageous enough to say: "Gee Paul, I've helped you with ten other things before, and every time you come back asking for more help. I'm not responsible for your problems you know, I'd love to help you once in awhile but I've got my own problems to deal with too. I'm going to have to say 'No' this time. Sorry, but I'm really busy."

• And if you're not that straightforward with your words, you can always try "Hey Paul, I hate to say no but I gotta say this is really a bad time as I'm in the middle of some issues that I need to deal with. Can you look after your problems first and I'll give you a call once I'm done with mine and have time to help you with yours?"

And here's a very important tip, never commit yourself. These pullers would usually start a conversation with a "What are you doing tonight?" or "this weekend?" or "later?"

NEVER, EVER SAY 'NOTHING'. Always assume that they need help and ask them "Is there something you want me to do? I can't promise you I can do it, but what's up?"

It may catch them off-guard and they may quickly say "Nah... I was just calling to check... bla, bla, bla…"

But if they've got the cheek, they might just put out their request openly and you may have to learn how to muster sufficient courage to tell them square in the face that you don't appreciate constantly having to help them by sacrificing your own time.

I've a "friend" who has got lots of cheek to ask for everything he wants from me, and I really told him off – after 1 and 1/2 years that is, so you can imagine how far I went. Just didn't appreciate friends as liabilities, don't think anyone would either :)

Closing notes:

To put it simply, saying "No" requires some courage, but it shouldn't be that difficult. Using a combination of confidence, certainty and detachment from the false sense of responsibility to say 'yes', it should be as easy as saying "Hi" - a single syllable response, with no emotions involved.

Please share this blog post if you liked it :)



The Pursuit of WISDOM Copyright © 2011 | Template created by O Pregador | Powered by Blogger