Building confidence and living well. What is it about saying no?

It’s just two letters N and O yet it can seem a big step to take, a hesitation, a gulp and then those other three letters come out YES. I came across this quote while looking at LinkedIn. It is by Paul Long [1] who says: "To say 'yes', often you first need to say 'no'. It's saying no in order to say yes to the things you really want in life, achieving the goals you are seeking and meeting the standards you are aspiring to."


Yet it seems that saying no or not saying no comes up time after time for me, for those I coach and also in my professional roles. I’m in a team where we have a Team Wellness Charter constructed together and one part of this includes saying no. As a team, we agreed that ‘Yes’ shouldn’t be your default answer…

No one expects you to take on every job thrown your way. Politely say no to requests that would overburden you before your schedule (and therefore your mental health) becomes overwhelmed. It is good to have a can-do attitude but not at the expense of your well-being – negotiate or respectfully decline.

When it comes down to it, the reason saying no is so important is because it protects our best interests. Whether it’s your physical health, mental health, or emotional health, saying no preserves your inner strength. It paves the way for a richer perspective on life...

Helpful tips on how to say no

Many of us could use a helping hand when it comes to being more assertive. Learning how to say no can be a lifelong journey, but we can start. 

Practise saying no

Knowing when to say no takes time and practice. The more often you say no, the easier it will become. Practice until the habit is built into your lifestyle. Practice once a day.

Show consideration for being asked

If you are asked to do something and you respond with a no, a little bit of appreciation about being asked might help soften the No! Expressing thanks for being asked will show others you care about their position, too. If you need to take your time, then do so. If you’re uncertain about whether you want to accept that’s okay. Take your time, consider the pros and cons, and then go back to the person with a clear head.

Communicate clearly

The clearer you are about saying no to someone, the better they will respond. If you are unsure, it could be harder for others to respect your decision. Aim for clarity and simplicity. 

Be courageous

Not everyone who asks you to do something is trying to take advantage of you. They may just be desperate for assistance. If you can’t accept their offer, be respectful and kind in how you reply to them. Don't be vague about why you can’t do something rarely makes things easier. You don’t need to justify your reasons. Instead, be clear, simple, and straightforward when saying no.

If it’s not a clear yes, those times when it just stands out as obvious. Those are the times when you just know. Then it’s a no. Whether it’s where to eat, what film to see, or that task you’ve been asked to do. Or as a colleague said to me:

 “I have a simple rule I found works 100% of the time: If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no”.

How to decide when to say no

Struggling to know if you should say no? Then it can help to have a mental list of questions to ask yourself when the right choice isn’t yet clear. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time to make the right decision.

The next time someone asks you to do something, and you’re not sure how to respond, use these questions as a template for gaining insight and clarity Questions for your back pocket.

  • Do I have the time and energy to do this?
  • Will saying yes add value to my life?
  • What makes saying “no” important to me?
  • Is someone trying to pressure me?
  • Am I people-pleasing?
  • Am I being used?
  • Ask yourself does saying no to this mean I can say yes to something else more important?
  • Am I saying yes because I’m missing out?
  • Ask yourself if there is anything more important for me to do?

Different ways to say no

It seems most of us grasp the concept of why saying no is so important. However, when it comes down to it, when forming those words, it can be scary and overwhelming. In moments like these, it can help to have some statements prepared that you can turn to for guidance. These 10 phrases can be used as substitutes for the simple “no” next time you find yourself backed into a corner. 

Try out the following:

  • I have another commitment
  • I wish I was able to
  • Sadly I’ve got something on at that time
  • I don’t have the time for that now
  • I am sorry I just cannot fit that in
  • I have other plans, maybe next time
  • No thank you, it does sound interesting
  • I can’t help now, how about in …
  • I’m not sure I’m the best person to
  • I’d love to but can’t 

We all need a little support sometimes. Especially when it comes to managing our communication with others. But to be the healthiest, happiest version of yourself, you need to lay down boundaries.

Whether you’re at home or work, knowing how to say no is a skill you can benefit from for the rest of your life. Prioritising your needs is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself. 

If you feel you’d like to do some work on being more confident and assertive and feel coaching might be of support to you do get in touch. If you would like to know more about my coaching, I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me by email, through my website, or by messaging me to arrange a discovery call. 


[1] New Way Forward & Paul Long Productions. Published Aug 13, 2023

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Oxford OX1 & London SE21
Written by Wesley Powley-Baker, MA, BA (Hons), MAC | Professional Life Coach and Mentor
Oxford OX1 & London SE21

Written by Wesley Powley-Baker Life Coach. My coaching is tailored around you. You set the direction and where you would like to get to. I ask you to be ambitious for yourself and your world and to set yourself worthy goal(s). As a coach we will craft these together.
Contact: or message me 07788304566

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