April 08, 2019

“No.”  It’s the shortest sentence in the English language, but for many it’s the hardest one to say.  Sometimes we feel like we’ll be missing out or get in trouble for saying it, but if we never say “no”, we wind up with much bigger problems.  There are big benefits to learning how to say “no” when appropriate, and today I am breaking down my top reasons to say no.

1. Divine decline.

When you say “no”, consider what you’re actually saying “yes” to.  If you had plans to stay in and relax but your friends are pressuring you to go out (when you’re really not feeling it), suddenly you’re saying “yes” to them and “no” to yourself.  Something isn’t adding up here.  Your desires are just as important as those of the people around you.  An invitation does not equal an automatic obligation to say “yes”.  Remember that you can’t please everyone all the time, and it’s a-ok to please yourself and honour your own needs.  Say “no” and get back to your bubble bath/Netflix/workout/cat memes.

2. Be a more efficient employee.

Finding that you’re a “yes man/woman” while on the job?  You’re not alone.  Many feel that if you say no to a higher-up, you may wind up in trouble or looked upon as lazy.  If your pile of work is starting to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa, consider this: most employers prefer that you do a great job at a reasonable number of tasks than a lousy job (that may need to be redone) at too many tasks.  This will likely save your boss from excess work in the long run because he or she won’t have to go over your work ad nauseum.  It boils down to quality over quantity.  Using excellent communication to relay the message that you’re hard at work slaying a certain project can help you say “no” when too many extras are being thrown your way.  And remember: if you never speak up and say when you’ve hit your limit, your boss may think that you’re able to handle more work

3.Consider your communication.

How you frame your “no” is everything.  Package up your “no” so that it seems like a great idea.  Remember the old adage that you win more flies with honey than with vinegar; so you can aim to be “sweet” when saying no, instead of irritated or annoyed.  Offer an explanation that shows the benefit to the person who asked the favour of you.  “I’d just love to be a bridesmaid for you, but I know I won’t be able to give the attention to the activities that you deserve for your special day, and I want you to be as happy as can be!”  Offer an alternative if you can, whether you can offer to do the task on another day or if you know someone who can tackle it today.  If you can participate in just some of the task, that works too.  “I’m not free on Saturday morning to help you move, but I’d love to drop off a coffee and muffin care package in the afternoon for a pick-me-up!” 

4. And for the person that just won’t take no for an answer…

Just say no.  No sugar coating required.  If you do, he or she may take it as an opening to persuade you.  You’re entitled to say a firm “no.”

Saying “no” can be a real challenge when you want to please people, but if you wind up feeling resentful, angry, or exhausted from saying “yes” too often, then this is a skill you need to work on.  Remember that just because you are asked something doesn’t automatically oblige you to do it.  Just say no.

**Disclaimer:  The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the diagnosis/treatment of a licensed medical or mental health professional.**

Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker Psychotherapist providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI.  Check her out at, drop her a line at, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

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