It was Monday morning, I had only slept for four hours and I had tons of things to do at work. I knew it was going to be a long day when I decided not to skip the gym for a change but to also go grocery shopping right after. By 18:00 I was so tired that I couldn’t feel my legs, and all I was thinking about was how quickly I was going to jump into bed. It was at this thought exactly when an old colleague called me and asked for a favour! She was going to go out later that night and wanted me to do her makeup because she was too lazy to do it alone. She wanted me to be there within the hour, which meant that hiding under the bed covers was not going to happen. It was last minute but I had three options:

  1. To say yes because I would have felt bad saying no, and would have ended up feeling miserable for saying yes
  2. To say no and maybe feel bad about saying it; or
  3. To say no and not feel bad about saying it.

Three years ago I would have gone with option one right away, regardless of my schedule and my priorities but that’s not the case anymore.  I went with option three.

I’m not saying that it’s easy to say no; I’m saying that sometimes it’s necessary. 

Here is how to do it:

  1. Say it. Out. Loud. 

Don’t try to find excuses and most certainly don’t lie.  If you lie, you will probably feel guilty right away and this is what you are actually trying to avoid feeling.  Don’t say “I’ll think about it” if you don’t want to do it, because this only provides an opening for the other person, nor delay or stall either. All these excuses will only make the situation worse and you’re going to feel even more stressed at the end of the day. It’s a two-letter-word and all you have to do is to say it out loud. Besides, that’s what you really want to say, right?

  1. Be polite and explain why you’re saying no.

Be direct, but also be polite, such as “Thanks for coming to me but I’m afraid it’s not convenient right now” or “I’m sorry but I can’t help this evening.” It’s necessary to say no when you don’t feel like doing something, but being rude and hurting other people’s feelings should not be in the picture. 

  1. Be honest about the reasons that made you say no.

I believe that it’s important to explain the reasons that have led you to say no because the person you’re saying no to might appreciate knowing why. (I know that I’d appreciate it!) You have to be honest with yourself and the other person and give them the real reasons that made you refuse their proposal. Don’t be scared to say that you’ve decided to do something for yourself instead, or that you’re too tired, or simply that you don’t want to it! You really are allowed to!

  1. Set boundaries.

The most important aspect in human relationships is to be able to understand and evaluate your role within the relationship. It requires getting to know you, and be aware of what you want and need from the other person. People often find it extremely difficult to say no because they believe that their answer will affect the relationship they maintain with the other person. Only if you manage to truly understand the dynamics and your role within the relationship, you won’t feel stressed about the consequences of saying no. 

  1. Put your needs first. 

Sometimes you have to be a bit selfish and put yourself first.  People often prioritise other people’s needs over theirs and end up doing everything for others and nothing for themselves. You should always remember that your self-worth does not depend on how much you do for other people, and that you are allowed to put your needs first without being judged for it!

Learning to say no is one of the most difficult things a person can ever manage to do. It requires taking control, challenging yourself and overcoming the fear of rejection. It’s a long road, but it’s the most liberating feeling you’ll ever experience; it’s a feeling of freedom and empowerment, so I’m telling you it’s worth the trouble!

Good luck!