You can learn to say no: The most valuable tips at a glance

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You can learn to say no: The most valuable tips at a glance

Surely you know the following situation: A colleague, a friend or family member surprises you with a request and you spontaneously agree. However, already at the moment of the acceptance you regret to have burdened yourself with the respective favor. You think desperately about how you're going to manage it all. You are not alone in this! Saying no is not easy for most people.

Saying no: Why is it so hard?

There are various reasons why you find it difficult to say no. First and foremost is the fear of rejection and disharmony. We humans are herd animals. This primal instinct is still ingrained in us. This is proven by the following scientific elaboration.

In prehistoric times, anyone who did not belong to the group had little chance of survival. That is why even today we strive to be accepted by other people. By rejecting a request, you probably fear that others will think you are selfish and exclude you. Everyone wants to be accepted. That is quite natural. Only you must not forget your own needs in all your helpfulness.

Another reason why you can't say no could be due to upbringing. Girls in particular are still increasingly raised to be friendly and conforming. In principle, friendliness is something desirable. However, dangerous is the (mostly unconscious) Belief Setthat you're only lovable if you always say yes to everything.

Helpfulness yes - self-sacrifice no

The line between helpfulness and self-sacrifice is fluid. Basically, only you can sense when it is crossed. Favors that you fulfill reluctantly leave you with a feeling of the inner emptiness back. If, on the other hand, you have helped of your own free will, the result fills you with joy. This is an important indicator.

Of course, there are situations in life in which one simply feels obliged to help. In one case or another, it is indeed appropriate to support someone else, even though one does not feel a great desire to do so. However, it is important that such exceptions do not become the rule.

There are people who feel when their counterpart can not say no. Here there is a danger of being taken advantage of. Unfortunately, this happens quite often in everyday life. Most of those affected even know that they are being taken advantage of. Yet it takes immense strength to rebel against it. The good news is: you can learn to say no!

say no tips

5 tips on how to say no

If you're having a hard time saying no, the following tips can help:

First, take some time to think it over.

Most regretted commitments are made when someone catches you off guard with their request. Therefore, get out of the habit of accepting immediately. Always ask for time to think it over. Depending on how urgent the request is, you should give yourself at least one day. This way you don't offend the other person and you protect yourself. Now you can calmly weigh up whether you can and really want to comply with the request.

Analyze the following aspects:

  • What exactly am I supposed to do?
  • How important is the favor?
  • How much time is this going to cost me?
  • Do I want to do this or am I reluctant?
  • Do I have the time and energy to help the other person?
  • What things fall by the wayside when I do this favor?
  • How has the person I am supposed to help behaved towards me in the past?

It is best to answer these questions in writing in a kind of pros and cons list. If you have finally made your decision, then represent it confidently. Formulate your rejection in a friendly but firm way. Maybe there is an alternative proposal instead of a no that is acceptable to both sides?

2. find out why you can't say no

The inability to say no often hides a diffuse fear. In order to be able to do something specifically, you should find out what exactly you are afraid of. There are different types of "yes-men":

  • Everyone's favorite: You want to be liked by everyone without exception.
  • The social chicken: You fear negative personal or professional consequences if you refuse a request.
  • The party animal: You have Fear, missing opportunities if you're not present everywhere.
  • Mother Theresa: You draw self-affirmation from your helpfulness.
  • The irreplaceable one: You feel like no one is capable of fixing things but you.

It may come as no surprise that all five yes-men types act destructively. It is neither possible to be liked by everyone (everyone's favorite) nor to live entirely without risk (social chicken). The extent of the consequences is also often overestimated! A no will hardly lead to the end of a sincere friendship or to the loss of one's job.

It's possible that the person you cancelled on will be miffed for a while. This - admittedly - unpleasant feeling you may endure! At this point, ask yourself what triggers you about the fact that another person possibly triggers a bad feeling in you right now? How do you know this? Do you allow yourself to be happy at all, even though this person is not? Maybe the sentence: "Everything that affects you, affects you" will help you in such situations. 

Are you one of those people who always help in order to receive praise and recognition? Often, however, the opposite happens, because your environment eventually takes your commitment for granted (Mother Theresa). One more reason to say no more often! You should also develop trust in your fellow human beings (the irreplaceable). Learn step by step to give up responsibility.

3. is yes to the other a no to yourself?

We have already briefly touched on the tip of analyzing what sacrifices you would have to make in favor of pleasing. We would like to go into this in more detail. Make yourself aware of what consequences a commitment would have for you. What could you do in the time it would take you to do the favor? Which things that are important to you would fall by the wayside?

Tip: Just add up the hours you spend doing tasks for others. Seeing this in black and white can be very instructive!

Furthermore, you should list what it costs you concretely not to be able to say no. Below are some examples:

  • It costs you time and energy that you could be investing in more important tasks.
  • By making unwanted commitments, you create stress and time pressure for yourself.
  • You resent having given in again after all, which weakens your self-image.
  • You feel used.

Finally, take stock: is the "cost" worth doing the favor?

4. realize that you are allowed to say no.

Self-care has nothing to do with selfishness. You should keep this in mind when, after a rejection has been given, you are faced with Guilt you have to fight. You can only help other people if you take care of yourself. This also includes saying no when something becomes too much for you. No one can be there for everyone else all the time without recharging their batteries in between.

Also, realize that you are a free human being who has free make decisions can. It is not only your right to protect your own needs, but your duty. If you do not want to do something, you are not obligated to do it in any way. Do not under any circumstances emotionally blackmail! No simply means no. You don't have to discuss.

5. saying no in a friendly way

Saying no doesn't mean that you should literally throw another person out on their ear. If you deliver your rejection in a friendly and respectful way, no one can be seriously angry with you. Communicate your no clearly though! Show understanding for the Disappointmentwithout being talked into it.

Even if you don't have to justify yourself, it can make sense to give reasons for your rejection, depending on the situation. If your counterpart understands your motives, he can often handle the rejection better. Unfortunately, there are always people who do not want to respect a "no". Especially if they are not used to it from you. The only thing that helps here is consistency:

"I know you're trying to convince me by any means necessary. But my answer is and always will be no."

"You obviously care a great deal about having me there. But I can only repeat that this time it does not suit me."

Important: Pay attention to the body language! Keep your upper body upright and look the other person in the eye. Avoid nervously fidgeting with your feet or kneading your hands. Speak loudly and clearly, but still calmly and objectively.

The importance of body language is made clear in the following scientific book, among others: Body Language & Communication - Nonverbal Expression and Social Interaction.

Learning to say no: formulations and examples

You may not believe it at first, but saying no will not make you unpopular with those around you. On the contrary, if you are able to say your own Needs is more likely to be respected than someone who says yes and amen to everything.

However, different situations require a different way of saying no. You will certainly say no to your boss in a different way than to a close family member. In the following, we would like to give you some practical examples for orientation.

How can I say no to the boss?

Turning down a favor from the boss is a real challenge. One proven method is the subtle evasion strategy:

"I'm afraid I don't have the option to stay late today. But I could bring the project forward with deadline."

"I have another job to finish, but I can take care of the new matter tomorrow. If it's particularly urgent, you could contact colleague XY."

"Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it today, as I was interrupted by a long phone call with client XY."

Did you notice something? Every rejection to your boss should contain a valid reason. This must necessarily correspond to the truth! If the boss feels well informed and can understand the reasons (maybe customer XY has already held him up for hours), he will accept your no more easily.

In addition to the evasion strategy, there are other methods:


"I'm uncomfortable with the task."

"I cannot reconcile this task with my conscience."

"I'm currently involved with so many other projects that I can't give the project the attention it needs."

make clear the consequences

"If I bring this task forward, case XY will be delayed even further, which could upset the client."

"I'm happy to take on the task, but I'd like to remind you that I'm not trained for this."

recall agreements

"They had promised me Wednesday off. That's why I specifically scheduled an important private appointment, which I now can't reschedule, for that day."

"We had already talked about the fact that I can't work overtime right now because of my family situation."

"Last month, to my knowledge, the other project was still a priority. What's changed?"

How can I say no to friends?

Saying no to friends is fraught with the fear of being seen as selfish. But that doesn't have to be the case. If you say no skillfully and respectfully, your (real) friends will understand.

"I'm afraid I can't come on Saturday as I've had a pretty tough week at work."

"Unfortunately, I don't have the time to make a pasta salad for the party. I'll be happy to bring a store-bought salad, though."

"I'd love to help you, but unfortunately I don't really know anything about this subject."

"I'm afraid you'll have to do without me this time. Next time I'll support you again."

How can I say no in the family circle?

Within a family, one expects support and cohesion. Nevertheless, one's own autonomy is also important here:

"I'm not coming on the family vacation this year because I need quiet."

"I can't make it to the grocery store after work today. If you're in a hurry, you'll have to go to the supermarket yourself."

"I can't take you to XY on Saturday because I already have an appointment."

"I'm not ready to host this milestone birthday party on my own. I need your support."

Saying "no" requires self-confidence

Saying no means that you don't make your life's happiness dependent on the affirmation of other people. You know who you are and what's good for you. Unfortunately, that takes Self-confidence not infrequently damaged in the course of life, whether by a particularly strict upbringing or by later negative experiences at work and in partnerships.

Lack of However, self-confidence can be effectively strengthenedso that you (re)gain the strength to stand up for yourself. In this context we would like to introduce you to our 1.5 hour free self-awareness webinar to the heart. With the help of targeted Coaching methods you learn to let go of negative beliefs and develop a positive self-image in the long term.

Does that sound interesting to you? Then you should still register today!


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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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