How to say no

Yes Man is one of my favourite Jim Carrey movies. If you haven’t seen Yes Man than I suggest you do, it’s not a recent movie but you should still be able to get it. Basically his life sucks, he goes to a seminar/conference thingy and then has to say yes to everything and I mean everything to open himself up to new opportunities and ultimately happiness.

There is one flaw in this theory but due to suspension of disbelief in films we kind of just roll with it. In real life however it is not possible to say yes to everything. Yet for some reason people still do so with dire consequences.

Let’s take a look at a few examples shall we?

Work: Your colleague or manager wants you to assist or take on more work even though you already up to your eyeballs in work. Do we say no? Of course not, we take on the extra work, curse under our breath all because we don’t want to be seen as not being a team player.

Home/Family: A family member asks for help. We say yes in most instances only because we feel obliged to help out but all this does is cause resentment and rifts. Not helping does not mean we don’t want to nor does it mean we love our family any less.

Friends/Social: Group of friends dying to try out new clubs or skydiving or basically anything you can not see yourself doing ever. Do not succumb to peer pressure. We are not in high school anymore and you should not have to apologise for who you are. Bow out gracefully.

Relationships: We all know that relationships with significant others are complicated and one person ends up compromising more than the other. Too often we agree to do things that we are not comfortable and happy with. The only advice is to keep the lines of communication open.

A few tips on how to say No:

  • “No, I can’t” –  no need to apologise or explain yourself.
  • “I’d love to but don’t have time/money/ability/etc” – you get the point, just be honest. People can tell when we are being sincere or not.
  • “Can you give me some time to think about it?”  – sometimes we make rash decisions in haste, giving ourselves time to think things through will make it easier for you to say no. It also shows the person asking for help that you are not dismissing them outright.
  • “Unfortunately not, but I am able to assist by doing/giving X – you don’t have to be able to solve the person’s problem completely, any form of help is better than none.
  • “No, but I do know the perfect person who would be able to help”

For some reason we tell ourselves by saying no, we are being selfish. Ask yourself if over-commiting or agreeing to something you do not want to do is healthy. Saying no is not easy but with some practise it is possible, start by saying no to little things that you won’t feel too guilty about and work your way up to the big stuff. And remember to be as respectful as possible.


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