How to Politely Yet Assertively Say No
By Mara Hurst
As a people-pleaser, the idea of saying no is not in my vocabulary. Many of us have the same issue. Wanting to help those around us is a seemingly natural instinct and we often do not realize when we are nearing our limit until it is too late. As much as we want to help those around us, it is impossible to care for others if you don’t care for yourself first. This is why learning how to say no in a kind, but assertive way is an extremely important skill.
A widely asked question is, “Well, why should I say no?” Despite the pushed narrative that saying “yes” leads to opportunities and happiness, saying “no” can do the exact same thing! If you have plans to see movies with your friends, and your uncle asks you to mow his lawn at the same time, what would you prioritize? Saying “no” in that case doesn’t make you a bad person, it means that prioritizing fun and friendship is what you need that day! Saying no gives you the opportunity to take care of yourself and your needs, therefore allowing you to grow more as a person.
Now for the daunting part, actually saying no. Saying no in a polite and assertive way follows some simple guidelines. The first is to be firm. If you are saying no, you have to mean it. On top of being firm, you should set your boundaries and make sure the person asking something of you is respecting these boundaries. Finally, remain polite and courteous. Saying no does not have to be mean or vicious.
But, how do you use these guidelines? A fantastic example would be responding to their question with something like this: “I’m really sorry, I have to say no. I am unable to do this for you.” Now this phrasing will not work in every circumstance, but it is a great starting point! In some cases, you may be presented an opportunity where you are willing and capable to complete some tasks, but not all. In this circumstance you can follow the same guidelines as above, saying something like, “I can’t do X, but I am more than happy to do Y and Z.” You are still saying no in a kind manner, while setting your boundaries. Keep in mind that everyone should be respecting the boundaries that you put in place. If they do not respect these boundaries, then there is no reason to feel guilty for saying no. In fact, you should never feel guilty for saying no because you are caring for yourself.
Saying no is nothing to be afraid of or avoid. Everyone in the world does it. Saying no means you are respecting yourself, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, respecting yourself is key to succeeding in life. To quote CEO Warren Buffett, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.” Saying no means prioritizing yourself for once and some self-care is what everyone needs. As long as you do it in a respectable way, saying no can be the best choice you can make.
Alpert, Jonathan. “7 Tips for Saying No Effectively.” Inc. https://www.inc.com/jonathan-alpert/7-ways-to-say-no-to-someone-and-not-feel-bad-about-it.html
Mendelsohn, Pamela. “The Importance of Saying ‘No’.” myTherapyNYC. https://mytherapynyc.com/importance-of-saying-no/