When And How To Say No

When I listened to Meghan Trainor’s new song “No”, something clicked on my mind: sometimes we just don’t say “no” enough. And I think I know why this happens: we are all secretly people-pleasers to some extent. As I see it, we all suffer consequences when we stand-up and say the taboo word “no”. There will always be a negative comment/reaction attached to this particular word, there will always be someone unhappy to hear this word.

Having said that, when is it appropriate to say “no”? As I see it, it’s okay to say “no” when:

  • Personal boundaries are crossed. “Always treat people the way you want to be treated”, but for some creatures is more like “always treat people the way they want to be treated” because some people just have absolutely no idea of what is appropriate or not.
  • Guilt comes after saying “yes”. If you know from the very beginning that you’re going to regret saying “yes” to a particular thing, then just say “no”. Trust your gut and experience to make the best decisions for yourself. If you feel or know that something is “off”, you’re totally entitled to say “no”.
  • Saying “yes” is going to mess up your priorities. Altruism is important, but it’s also important to care of yourself first, so you can then, take care of others. This applies to both personal life and work. How many times have you found yourself sucked into some drama/problem that was not even your responsibility to solve it in the first place?
  • There is a pressure to say “yes”. This may sound quite counter-intuitive, but let me explain: if there’s a peer pressure to say “yes” and you feel that even though a lot of people are saying “yes” to something, but you feel like saying “no” because you strongly feel it’s the right thing to do for you, then go ahead and say “no”. Imagine, just because a lot of people are willing to jump off a bridge, it doesn’t mean you need to follow them.

Now that we’ve acknowledged when to say “no”, we also need to know how to say “no”.

  • Start by saying the word “no” and don’t apologize too much for it. Sometimes, we say “sorry” but we don’t really mean it, so what’s the point of repeating it?
  • Avoid using long explanations to justify your “no”. At this point, a brief explanation is enough, if the other person doesn’t “get it”, it’s their problem.
  • Be assertive, don’t say “no” and then change your mind to accommodate the other person’s wishes. If they keep insisting, just repeat your explanation.
  • Walk away if necessary. This is the last resort, if you’ve explained yourself twice already and the other party keeps insisting on the same topic to which you said “no”, then it’s okay to turn the other way, because it’s clear that the person is being totally disrespectful.

I’ll finish this post with Meghan Trainor’s “No” (in case you’re interested):