How To Say No When You Don’t Want to Say the Word

Posted on Nov 6, 2017

Last year, Meghan Trainor released a song called “No.” The lyrics are, “My name is NO. My sign is NO. My number is NO. You need to let it go.”

In this anthem of empowerment, Ms. Trainor clearly asserts her boundaries.

Boundaries are the invisible fences we build around ourselves to maintain balance and protect ourselves from the behavior or demands of others.

The single most powerful tool you can use to establish and maintain healthy boundaries is that tiny word: NO.

Let’s face it, for many of us, saying, “No,” is not so easy.

Saying “No” is uncomfortable because we want the parties involved to approve of our “No,” agree with our “No,” and not be mad at us for saying, “No.”

We want permission to say, “No,” to absolve us of feeling guilty.

Remember, guilt is only appropriate if you have done something wrong. Disappointing someone is uncomfortable but it is not wrong.

Since so many of us have a hard time saying “No”, here are some tactful ways to say “No”, when you don’t want to say the word.

  1. If you have any hesitation to saying yes to a request, use a delay tactic:

“Let me check my calendar. I’ll get back to you if I am available.” This allows you to take the responsibility for communication and the other person does not need to follow up.

  1. If you actually would like to help but your plate is really full:

“I can’t really commit to anything right now but I still want to contribute. Keep me in the loop and I’ll pitch in when I can.

  1. If you never want to be approached again about this request:

“It’s not for me but I wish you success with that.”

In each of these situations, you are communicating that your involvement is based on your capacity and desire, not the immediacy of their need. In other words, you create a boundary.

Boundaries are a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set healthy boundaries and maintain them.