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Sometimes we just don’t want to say no. A friend asks you to go out on a Friday night. You want to… badly! But, you also know you have an early morning, and told yourself you needed to keep it mellow, give yourself some much deserved me-time, and simply reconnect to that beautiful feeling of nothingness. Do you give in and go because you want to? Or because your friend wants you to?

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Sometimes it’s that you really want to say no, but you’re too afraid. A co-worker asks you for help with a project; a friend asks you for help moving furniture; you get asked to grab dinner with a friend. You say yes to all of them, because the fear of how the other person will respond to your denial is too much to bear.

Wanting to be liked by others is something many of us can relate to. And there’s nothing wrong with it, but if you’re compromising your well-being, who you are, and what makes you happy, it’s time to take a step back.

There’s a common fear that saying no to someone — despite being too busy, super stressed, or uninterested — makes you selfish. It’s not. Saying no is just as important as saying yes. The difference is being true to yourself (because who wants a fake friend, anyway?)

If you know you need to start saying no more, but are worried about how others may perceive you, fear not. There’s an art to saying no, filled with respect and ease.

Practice Saying “No”

You never need a good reason to say no, but if fear is getting in your way, then it’s helpful to prepare through practice.

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“Think of situations that have come up in the past, and then experiment with polite ways to say no,” suggests Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. “Actually say it out loud so that when the time arises you’re comfortable with the words.”

Trying saying something along the lines of, “That sounds like a really good cause, but I don’t have the time to devote to it,” Carter says. Or, “It’s so nice of you to think of me, but I can’t add anything else to my plate right now.”

Show Your Appreciation

One of the biggest concerns of saying no is offending the person requesting your help or presence. It can take a lot of courage to ask another person to share a task or moment with you, so be sure to show your appreciation. Saying something like, “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I can’t today,” can set the tone of your denial in a much more loving way than simply saying “No, I can’t.”

Be Clear That You’re Saying No

Though there are definitely times when we are unsure of our commitment to something, saying maybe when we know we mean no is an unhealthy way of expressing ourselves. It also gives the other person the opportunity to follow up again and ask us the same question. Giving them hope when you know you aren’t going to follow through with their request isn’t fair to the other person. To avoid this, be clear that the answer is no. You can do this politely by saying a statement such as, “Thank you, but I’m going to have to decline.”

Offer a Referral

If someone asks you to help them with a project, but you don’t have time, try suggesting someone else you may know who would be good for the task. You can say, “My schedule is to full, but I know a great copywriter who would be perfect for this!”

Give an Explanation (If Necessary)

Only if you feel it’s benefitting your statement should you offer an explanation as to why you have said no. Explanations are often perceived as fake excuses to get out of things. Lying is never the answer. So, if you simply don’t want to, just say no. If you feel strongly about informing the other person that the ONLY reason you have to say no is because you have a prior commitment, feel free to inform them of that event, but keep it brief.


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