Just Say No


It’s a strong statement, a moment of clear choice.  It announces something affirmative about you. 

  • I will not miss a workout session. 
  • Pick up an extra shift this week? No thank you, my time with my family is too important.
  • No, I cannot attend that event (because my needs take priority).

NO says, “This is who I am; this is what I value; this is what I will and will not do; this is how I choose to act.” NO recognizes that we have limits, and the closer we get to manning these self-set limits, the stronger we are.

Whether you’re saying NO to yourself or to others, there’s always a cost, otherwise it wouldn’t be so darn hard.

Here are a six strategies to help strengthen your NO muscles.

Replace your automatic Yes with “I’ll think about it.”

I’ll think about it puts you in control, and makes it easier to say NO after taking time to think things through.  It will be easier to stick to your NO, and help you avoid potential regrets of an automatic Yes.

Soften your language

If NO makes you squirmy, try “I’m not comfortable with that.” “I’d prefer not.” “I’d rather…” “Let’s agree to disagree here.” or “That’s a good/nice/interesting plan, but I won’t be able to…”

You’re still delivering a clear and powerful NO that is likely to be understood by the other person in a way that is easier to both state and receive.

Keep calm and contain your feelings

NO is best delivered pleasantly with an air of Zen like calm, even though this is not an easy feat!  Being outwardly calm can help quiet your own inner turmoil and reduce the negative impact of NO on your audience.

Reference to your commitment to others

Say NO without appearing selfish or uncaring by referencing your conflicting obligations to other people.  I encourage my clients to use me, their coach, as an excuse to say NO to the activities, behaviors or people that no longer serve them

Remember you represent others

When you realize that it’s not just you at stake, you may find it easier to say NO.  For example, saying NO to the ever seductive snooze button because you promised to meet you friend for a run will make it easier to get out of bed and out the door.


Most of us have ongoing situations that can benefit from a thoughtful and well-rehearsed NO.  Try designing a clear, respectful “NO” and privately rehearse your line. 

If your boss continually piles work on your plate, a practiced “I can’t take on another project because my plate is too full.” will start to roll off your tongue after a bit of practice. If you rehearse long enough, you might soon be able to deliver a simple one-word NO without much thought or anxiety.


By practicing a clear and powerful NO, you’ll start to get better at setting boundaries, and you may soon notice when you do say Yes it becomes much more meaningful.

Want help getting comfortable with saying NO and setting boundaries? Let’s work on it together! Give me a shout.