Sometimes it's the Right Thing to Say 'No'!

Learn to say No!

Honour your needs….sometimes it's the right thing to say ‘No’!

Have you ever felt guilty saying 'No'; particularly to colleagues, family and friends? You may just fall into the category of being a ‘people pleaser;’ finding yourself always saying ‘Yes’ to requests from others and feeling somewhat empty or resentful after you do. Saying ‘No’ to a request does not mean you are rejecting the person (as long as you say it correctly) it means you are declining a request that will distract you from achieving your goals or PAY [Prioritise Activities for Yield]. This is honouring yourself and your needs, but remember being assertive requires being considerate and respectful of others too.

When saying 'Yes' derails you from finishing your tasks on time and to a quality standard; you have let yourself and your team down by not saying 'No' for the right reasons.

Guilt is a common feeling which creeps in after you say ‘No’; or in some cases can be present all the time “What will people think of me?”, “They will think I'm a bad friend, or colleague”, “They will never talk to me again”, these thoughts are common in most of us. Ask yourself though…Do you take offence to others declining your requests?

Let’s look at the steps we can practice when learning to say ‘No’ to requests from others that you are not comfortable with, or when saying ‘Yes’ to their request would derail you from your own scheduled activities. It will take practice to master the art and to feel comfortable saying ‘No’, but push past the fear and test it out. It’s often not as bad as you think.

 The saying ‘No’ formula

  • Acknowledge the other person’s request; show the person you have heard their request by repeating it; this gives them a sense of acknowledgement as well as allows for clarification if there has been a misinterpretation.
  • Explain your reason for declining; you want to do this in a way that you do not waffle or get into lies or excuses. Make your reason precise and to the point.
  • Say ‘No’; saying this tactfully is important. You may not want to say just 'No' but rather 'I'm not really up to it so thank you but, no'. 'I'm going to have to pass on that' etc.
  • If appropriate suggest an alternate proposal where both people’s needs are being met; ‘Have you spoken to Bruce to see if he has capacity to help you?’ or ‘Chat with Ruth, see if she has any capability to help you, if she doesn't come back and see me at 4.45 and I will see what we can problem solve together'.

Still not certain you've found the right formula? Well here’s even more ways  to go about saying ‘No’!

More ways to say ‘No’

  • Say ‘No’ to now but ‘Yes’ to later; I am busy at the moment; can someone else can help you? If not, get back to me and we can plan a convenient time for both of us and I can help you at that time.
  • No’ unless something changes; Thanks for the opportunity, as much as I’d like to help you, I am not currently in a position where I can take on extra responsibility. Can we talk about this at another time if you aren't able to find help from someone else and I have a change in my circumstances?
  • A definitive ‘No’; I wish I didn't have to disappoint you, but I'm not able to do what you are asking me to do. I don’t want to over commit myself.
  • Which task shall I drop?; I would love to help you with that; which one of my current tasks shall I bump till later? or, sure I can do that; which of these other tasks shall I not do?
  • I'm already committed; Sorry I won’t be able to as I already have a commitment at that time.
  • I'm appreciative but ‘No’; I appreciate you asking me and I hope that you appreciate that I have to say ‘No’.
  • Come back at the end of the day; Come back at the end of the day; I’d like to give you a hand, but I'm on an incredibly tight deadline. If 10 minutes (be exact) of my time would be helpful, come back at 4.45 (end of day or some other specified time) and I’ll see if I can help then.

When you say 'Yes' to others, make sure you are not saying 'No' to yourself!
Sometimes the right thing to do is to establish healthy boundaries and say 'No'!


As Steve Job attests 'Staying focused is all about saying 'No''


What's your favourite way to say 'No', we'd love to hear it; so many of us over commit and are afraid to say 'No'! Leave us your favourites in the comments section below....sharing is caring and we all need help saying 'No'!

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Maria-Jane Satterthwaite

Scope Vision, 34 Colombard Lane, The Vines, WA, 6069

After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 29, MJ knew her journey was going to be unique! 

No way was she going to waste any of her years working 9-5 under poor leadership! She seized the opportunity to become an independent worker; starting her own Registered Training Organisation, Scope Vision.

MJ’s curiosity into what drives people, and businesses, to achieve success has been the passion recognised in her award-winning business. The drive to continue to train and embrace lifelong learning has been her key to success, and she wants to see this happen for others.

20 years on, the passion and curiosity she’s used to shape the businesses she works with, and her longevity in these relationships have inspired her to think about the future of work; what this will mean for workers in general and indeed her own business. Find out more about MJ