Do You Say Yes When You’d Rather Say No?

[caption id="attachment_3009" align="alignleft" width="300"]Just Say NO! Just Say No![/caption]


Do you have a tendency to agree to things even when you  know it’s not what you want to do, or that it may even be  detrimental to your own happiness? Do you find saying “no”  difficult? Do you even feel that you have a real choice when  you are asked to do something you really don’t want to do?  Well, you are not alone! Read on to discover what you can  do  to shift the balance for a happier and more balanced life.


So many people agree to do things, and once having said “yes” find themselves flying around, stressed and resentful. To get out of this habit, a person needs to create a better relationship with themself, treating themself as they would others (no better, no worse). Learning to do this is vital for a sense of wellbeing and a truly well balanced life.

To do this, you need to have confidence in our own self worth, and the skills to say “no” graciously without causing offence, but before that you need to understand the many reasons you say “yes” even though it is the opposite of what you really want.

Common reasons people say yes when they really mean no!

These themes have come to light during various coaching sessions with clients. It is not an exhaustive list by any means and you may find several of the examples resonate with you:

Low Self Esteem

  • Everyone is more important than me; therefore their needs must be a higher priority.
  • I feel much better about myself when I am doing things for others, even when I ignore my needs to service those of others.
  • I am wary of upsetting other people, if I say no, they will not like me any more.
  • Everyone else knows what they are doing, if I say no it could be the wrong thing to do.
  • I feel guilty if I upset anyone – it is easier to say “yes” rather than feel bad about myself.
  • I’m always the one who gets put upon – it is my role in life.

Saying “Yes” To Get Them Off My Back

  • I can never think of how to say “no” and not upset them. I say “yes” because at least I have some space… initially .
  • It is just easier to say “Yes” than deal with the fall out – others being cross or disappointed in me. I fear the anger if I upset the person asking, or they’ll sulk, nag, withdraw etc.
  • Saying “yes” makes me feel good… to start with. Then I get overwhelmed by how much I have to do because I have taken on too much.

The Person Who Asks Has High Status

  • I wouldn’t dream of saying no to my parents/boss, whatever they say goes.
  • If I say “no” I’ll get passed over for promotion.

So What Is The Solution?

There is no single solution but some of the following suggestions may be helpful. You may be able to use them to make a difference by yourself, or maybe it would help if you worked through the issues with a life coach.

  1. Think about life in terms of what is fair and equitable.
  2. Think about a pair of old fashioned scales (the sort with a weigh pan on each side). The fair thing is to treat yourself no better OR WORSE than you treat others.
  3. Each time someone asks you to do something, weigh it out on your scales. Use that as the measure between “yes” and “no”.
  4. On balance is it fair and right for you to be asked to do it? If it is – go ahead.
  5. If you feel that the balance is tipped against you, then it is probably time to say no, unless there are other factors at work.
  6. Do you measure your own performance by the same criteria as you measure others? If not ask yourself why not?
  • How do you feel when someone says “no” to you?
  • Does it depend on why and how it is done?
  • Do you stop liking someone simply because they say no?
  1. What makes it right to give yourself a harder time than you would give another person?

How to say no gracefully without upsetting the other person 

Remember that the tone of your voice and the body language you use will have an enormous impact on the way the other person interprets your motives.

If you have trouble saying “no” in the first place, rehearsing different ways to say no which are both friendly and appropriate can help you avoid being caught on the hop.

You don’t need to go into great screeds of reasons. Keep it simple and avoid lying as you are likely to be found out which will cause bad feeling.

Having some responses rehearsed so you are not caught on the hop can be really helpful. Think about the last few times you have said “yes” and wish you had said “no”. Now create the script for how you could have said “no” graciously.

Here are some possible examples:

At Work…

  • Thanks for thinking of me. I’d love to help but I need to focus on meeting my deadlines, happy to help if those could be pushed back.
  • I’d really like to help but if I were to do that, which of my other priorities should I put on hold?
  • I can see how important it is but I simply have no space in the diary to give it the time and attention it deserves. I would hate to let you down or do a poor job.
  • Just look at my diary – there is no window of opportunity till ---- I don’t think that will fit with your time scale. It would probably be better to ask someone else.
  • I can’t give you an answer at the moment. I need to look at what you require before committing as I hate doing a bad job and wouldn’t want to let anyone down.
  • I’ve looked at **** really carefully and I simply can’t see how I can get everything done in the time available.

In Your Personal Life…

  • I’d love to see you but I’m afraid I can’t do tomorrow. How about next week?
  • I’m really sorry I can’t help on this occasion but if you gave me more notice I might be able to help next time.
  • Under other circumstances I would love to help but I’m sorry, I can’t at this time.
  • I’m stumped – normally – no problem but I’m snowed under at the moment so will have to say no, sorry.

Where the person has high status…

  • I really respect/love you very much and the last thing I want to do is upset/disappoint/let you down but saying “yes” would mean …..
    • I wouldn’t have time to do things properly
    • I would be doing something I feel is wrong
    • It isn’t the right thing to do
  • Can I suggest ……. as an alternative approach, or
  • How can we come up with something that works for both of us?

When You Feel You Have To Fit Clients In…

If you find it difficult to say no to clients who want an appointment and find yourself creating a longer and longer working day you may find it useful to block out time with appointments to yourself.

One client I have worked with is self-employed. She found it difficult to say no to her clients but the result was her working very long days. She was exhausted and her health was suffering.

She found just saying “no” difficult, so her solution was to create a number of mythical clients. She went through the diary booking in appointments with them in all appointments after the time she wanted to work.

When clients were demanding about her working late she simply showed them the diary and said – sorry there isn’t a space left for those times for months. How about …. instead.

When you say yes simply to give yourself breathing space…

Several clients used to use this as a management strategy. In the first instance it would work giving them a bit of breathing space, however the relief was short lived. They then had to either find space to complete the task in their already crowded diary or go and say they couldn’t do it after all. Both outcomes created stress and had a knock-on effect on the way their bosses and colleagues regarded their efficiency and professionalism.

An alternative strategy could be to ask the boss politely: I am rather snowed under at the moment. I’m happy to help but I need a steer – which is the priority? I can do a ---- or b----- in the time scale. Which one would you rather?

Or you could say

I’ll have to get back to you as I need to look at what I can reasonably do in the time I have available. I’d rather not promise something and then let you down. I’ll ring you this afternoon.

With both of these strategies it is important that you are clear about what is a reasonable expectation of you. It is not a strategy to be used to avoid doing a fair share of the work.


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