Skip to content

10 Reasons To Say No More Often + How To Do It With Grace

Danielle Dowling, Psy.D.
May 28, 2015
Danielle Dowling, Psy.D.
Doctor of Psychology
By Danielle Dowling, Psy.D.
Doctor of Psychology
Danielle Dowling, Psy.D. is a doctor of psychology and life coach, helping ambitious, driven women achieve the financial, spiritual, and lifestyle abundance they desire and deserve. She holds a bachelor's in business from American University, and her master's and doctor of psychology degree from Ryokan College.
May 28, 2015

With endless work deadlines, social engagements, family responsibilities and the hope for some self-care, it can feel like we're in a constant battle with time.

Learning to say no more often just might be the solution. Appreciating your need for some "me time" is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. When we can simply pause, we restore, realign, recalibrate.

And sometimes, we have to sacrifice the part of us that wants to please others in order to find time for recharging. In other words: we have to say no. Here are 10 reasons to embrace the power of saying no (and some tips for how to say it with kindness and integrity).

1. There's no "right" way to say no: you can find a way that works for you.

Take the pressure off. I know saying no is hard, but this reason is about taking the opportunity to reframe it. We live in a culture that respects busyness. We're in awe of people who seem like they do it all. Or we don’t want to let people down because we’re afraid we’ll appear rude, that conflict might arise, or bridges may be burned.

But I've realized these perceptions are ultimately misconceptions than anything. At the end of the day, it’s about how you say no. And a great reason to embrace saying no is realizing that it's simply a way of respecting and valuing your time and space.

To get you started on thinking of compassionate ways to say no, here are a few scripts to begin saying no with respect and authenticity:

  • “Now’s not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. How about we reconnect at X time?”
  • "Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.”
  • “I’m not the best person to help on this. Why don’t you try X?”
  • “I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”

2. Your intuition is one of your greatest advocates.

And it can help you figure out how and why to say no. If/when you do, tapping into your intuition will help you articulate why you are choosing to say no, both to yourself and to the other person. Be respectful and to the point. And remember that some situations just aren't meant to be. If your intuition tells you to walk away, do it. Rarely has a situation I felt uneasy about gotten better, unfortunately.

3. There are always alternatives you can offer (it's not the end of the world).

This one's simple, but a profound thing to keep in mind. While saying “no,” you can simultaneously set boundaries and be generous. Try to help the person who approached you by offering an alternative or help at a later date.

4. When we stretch ourselves thin, we're not helping anyone.

Especially when someone we love or admire needs help, we tend to say "yes," rather than being realistic about our time commitments. This typically leads to burnout, resentment, frustration, and doesn't help you or anyone else in the long-run. It takes courage to admit when you're uninterested, not willing or simply want better. So try to keep focus on authenticity rather than likeability.

5. You will never be able please everyone.

If there are people who will sever ties with you because you need to say no to something, let them go. Your true blue friends, family and respected colleagues will understand. It's simply a fact that you will never be able to please every being in the universe. So fill your universe with those bright, supportive souls.

6. It's OK to feel left out because sometimes it's necessary.

We all say "yes" for fear of being left out on occasionally. However, be sure to think things through before over-committing, even if the opportunity may not come around again. Revisit your priorities, your energy and evaluate how of if this experience will benefit your life. If it’s really not worth it, let it go.

7. Saying no creates opportunities for us to ask for what we want.

When we are courageous enough to follow our gut instincts we create the space for a honest, open discussion of what we do want. And the only way to get what you want is to let it be known and ask for it.

8. Practicing your no will help clarify your needs.

Most of us we reach a stage in your life where there are simply more pressing demands. Mortgages, children, aging parents, graduate school bills and as much as we would like we simply don’t have the bandwidth to say yes. What would you like to never ever have to do again? Grab a piece of paper and write it down. Review the paper. Then get rid of it. Burn it in your kitchen sink. In other words, let it go.

9. When we say no we give other people the chance to shine.

When you remove from your plate that which you are not interested in doing, and ask for help instead, you give someone else the opportunity to use their strengths. This person might want the opportunity, and will be grateful for a chance to shine and contribute their strengths. And on your end, you get the help you need. How’s that for a win-win situation?

10. Boundary-setting is a practice in mindfulness.

Every good habit we implement takes practice in order to become a habit. While being a "yes person" can be wonderful at times, it won’t lend itself to allowing yourself to just be.

So learn to think of saying no as a practice, an exercise in mindfulness. It's an experiment, and takes trying. You might feel a little guilty at first, but if you acknowledge that feeling, address the other person with respect, let it go and move on, you will be more aware of the power of no.

Remember you have a choice: unless it lights you up, don’t do it. With each breath commit to doing a little less of what you don’t want to do and a little more of what you do want to do.

Danielle Dowling, Psy.D. author page.
Danielle Dowling, Psy.D.
Doctor of Psychology

Dr. Danielle Dowling, Psy.D. is a doctor of psychology and life coach, helping ambitious, driven individuals achieve the financial, spiritual, and lifestyle abundance they dream about. She holds a bachelor's in business from American University, and her master's and doctor of psychology degrees from Ryokan College.

Dowling has spent years helping people live richer, more joyful lives. She has seen firsthand the magical pairing of psychology and life coaching, which allows people to access their happiest selves.