Do you find it hard to say “NO”?

Zilvold Coaching & Training BLOg on NO
8 min read

Summary: This article explains why we find it hard to decline something and it gives you some techniques to help you make it easier to say “NO”.

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I used to have a hard time saying “NO” to my colleagues, boss, clients and friends. I must admit, I still find it not easy at times but it’s not that hard anymore. There’s less guilt, stress or anxiety.

Would you like this as well? This article is for people who find it hard to say “NO”. It explains why we find it hard to say “NO” and how to make it easier.


Since the beginning of time, relationships between people have been extremely important since we are a social animal. Most of us are looking for a connection, want to belong to a group and want to be included. Recently, I heard someone say that the 3 major fears we have in life are: fear of success, fear of failure and fear of judgement. By saying “NO” we might fear that people judge us, that they will like us less and that we disappoint them.

People oriented behavior

This is especially the case when you have people-oriented behavior (like me). We like to support others and take care of good relationships. Stability and harmony are important values for us. By saying “NO”, we tend to think that we’re not in line with our values anymore. This can lead to anxiety and frustration. Do you know what your preferred behavior is in communicating with others? Read this article!

Missed opportunity

And then there’s the chance that you’re maybe missing an opportunity when saying “NO”. Perhaps people won’t ask you again after you’ve declined their offer or question. Read this article for some tips on how to deal with a missed opportunity.


This all can lead to stress. An article in the paper today said that stress is the cause of an enormous crisis. One of the reasons are the many choices we have to face every day. This also means choosing for one thing and saying “NO” to something else. And when we did say “YES” to the one or many things, we want to do it well. Actually, we want to do it perfectly because you don’t want to fail and you want to maintain that good image of a ‘can do’ person. No wonder people get stressed or a burn-out when they do this day after day. A new way of living might simply be not to react on all impulses (news, social media, mail, telephone,…) and daring to say “NO”.

Ways to say “NO”

Of course it all depends on what you say “NO” to. In some instances it is easier (like saying “NO” to a street vendor) and sometimes is more difficult (declining a promotion).

So, how to so say “NO”? Here are some tips to be used at work or at home.

Choose your language

How are you going to approach your boss or colleague? That can depend on their own communication style. If the other person is conscientious, you’d better prepare your conversation well with facts. If he or she is dominant then start by saying “NO” straight away without avoiding the “N” word. People who are more focused on harmony can be approached in a friendly, personal way where you explain the importance of the relationship and how you would like to maintain this.

While talking to your boss or to someone whose communication style is not clear to you, you want to stay neutral and talk about the benefits for the company (and the whole). And don’t make it a personal issue.

Say “Thank you”

Thank the person for coming to you with her or his request. Even thank your boss who gave you ten tasks already in the morning. They have made an effort to connect with you.

Check priorities

When you’re already swamped with work, let your colleagues or boss know and check which task should be done first and which task can wait a little longer. It is important to prepare this conversation. What you can do is make 4 categories of all your tasks: not urgent-not important, urgent- not important, not urgent-important, urgent-important.

Have alternatives

So, if there are too many tasks which are in the urgent-important category, you will need alternatives:

-Is the task really important & urgent? By re-evaluating a task you can come to the conclusion that a task might seem urgent but not important to be resolved right now.

-Is there another colleague/department or company who can do this task? Outsource it! Chances are that you can do more productive tasks and tasks which give you more energy.

-Do they really need it by the end of the day? This is similar to checking priorities but by discovering that a report will only be read the next day after lunch will give you more time to prepare it (and to do a more urgent & important task). So, just check if you can do it later by contacting your colleague, boss or client.


Try to negotiate to do a task at a later time or that a colleague takes over a certain task. You might give a counter-offer to do a certain task now and that your colleague will do something else. For example: “I can do these calculations for you now if you can present the results in graphs”.

Tell what you want & why

I used to say “YES” often because I didn’t want to let other people down. This resulted in tasks and actions coming to me which I actually did not want or which did not give me energy at all. They actually made me unhappy!

I discovered that by knowing my WHY, my purpose and by knowing  my contribution and the effect of it on the world, it is easier for me to say “NO”. If a certain opportunity is not in line with my WHY, then there will be no contribution and it will not help me live my purpose. Even for me as an people-oriented person who values harmony and relationships to say “NO”.

If an opportunity is in line with my WHY, then I know that I will have energy, inspiration and joy for it. Simply because it’s in line with my values, principles and what I stand for. Read the following article on how you too can discover your WHY!

Say “Thank you”, again

This is a different “Thank You” than the one stated above. It actually is “NO, thank you”. It is important to say this firmly (and with a smile).

Saying “NO” is not being cruel. Perhaps you can not do a task now but certainly do it at a later time. It should be clear to people (who have task oriented behavior) that you can not do what you’ve been asked. Why? Because there are too many tasks, there are no alternatives or that it’s not in line with your WHY.

From experience I can say that saying “NO” is not hard anymore. I am sure that this new behavior will lead to a life with more calmness, clarity, more energy and joy.

What are your ways to say “NO” to something? And why would you say “NO” to an amazing opportunity? Let me know in the comment box below. I, and other readers of this article look forward reading from you!

Thank you for reading up to here & sharing this article with your colleagues, friends or family. And please SHARE this article with your network on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google + by pressing the buttons below so that they can also benefit from this article on how and why to say “NO”.

Have you seen an error in this article? Let me know! I am grateful!

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