The critical things you need to learn about how to say “No”

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For this week’s Q&A, let’s talk about how to take back your life! Here’s a question I received:

I’m so tired of doing everything for everyone else and never having enough time to do the things I really want to do for myself. How can I learn to say no to people?

Putting yourself first isn’t easy, no matter who you are. But, it’s incredibly important.

In fact, it’s kind of like they tell you on a plane—in the event the oxygen masks deploy, you have to put one on yourself before you put one on someone else.

If you’re not taking care of YOU, then you’re not performing at your highest levels for yourself or others. Not to mention the emotional and physical drain you suffer!

When you’re doing something because you think you have to or you should, you can feel how it hurts you. You grumble to yourself about it, you’re full of negativity and resentment, and it’s impossible to have fun doing what you’re doing. Plus, you might even be snapping at your loved ones, hurting them in the process.

And it doesn’t stop there. When always saying yes becomes a habit, you start to get burned out. You have trouble sleeping. You get depressed. If you don’t say no when you need to, it can cause ongoing problems for you and everyone around you.

OK, now think about what it’s like when you genuinely want to do something, it lifts you up. You’re happy, your enthusiasm spreads to others, and you often gain more energy. Isn’t that a huge difference?

The goal is to get more of THAT feeling in your life. Knowing that you have to take care of yourself—and what will happen if you don’t—can give you the confidence you need to start telling people no. Make yourself a priority!

So, how do you know WHEN to say no?

When someone asks you to do something, take an opportunity to think about whether you want to do it. If you do, and you have time, great.

If you don’t, and you know it’ll cause you to feel resentful, then ask yourself if doing it is really important—and to whom. You, or that person?

Then, think about what else you have on your plate. Only you know if taking on this task will create overwhelm for you, inconvenience someone you care about, or create other issues. Also, it’s unlikely you’re the only person who can help out the person who asked you.

When you know what your priorities are, where you stand, and what your answer is, just simply tell the person no. You don’t need to explain yourself, you don’t need to make up an excuse, and certainly don’t backpedal. Just be polite.

In life, you can’t always do exactly what you want to do. Occasionally, you’ll find yourself in a position when you say yes to someone, even when it’s not an ideal situation. But you can change your attitude about it. Look for the good in what you’re doing. Try to make it fun. You’re completely in control of how you feel about this situation.

What are some of the situations in which you have trouble saying no? Tell me in the comments!

About Joe Serio

Dr. Joe Serio is a keynote speaker, trainer, and author who helps the people in your organization navigate resistance to change so they can move forward successfully.

One Response

  1. Jeff Isham says:

    My problem with saying “no” to others really involves everyone that is close to me. My family, friends, and co-workers. I can’t say no to them. I feel like I have an obligation to help them. I often take on too much and it wears me very thin on patience. I get very anxious and stressed out but I try not to let them see it. The ones who suffer are the ones closest to me.


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