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Learn to say NO to be more assertive

Do you struggle to say no?

Do you end up saying yes too often; even when you can’t or don’t want to commit? How to say no? How to be more assertive when making decisions?

Say no written on a lady's hand

Why can’t I say NO?

Studies revealed that not being able to say no or not daring to say no is a deep fear that we hold since our childhood. "If I say no, I will not be loved anymore" is an example of the unconscious thoughts that we can have even though saying no would be the best choice in the situation.

Often, we are afraid to say no to our family, friends, co-workers or managers. We don’t want to hurt them, to reject them or for them to be mad at us or to love us less. We are petrified that a no could cost us a friendship or a work promotion.

Sometimes we simply want to avoid conflicts and the ‘yes’ is just easier.

Some of us are just people pleasers; we want others to be happy. In order to make that happen, we deny our own needs and preferences – we put other people’s interest ahead of our very own

What would be the first steps to manage to say no more often to respect my wishes and feelings?


As any other thing that you want to change in your life the first step is awareness. If you are reading this article you are already probably aware of your challenge to say no, so let’s move on to the second step.


As human beings we are made of habits, and so are our brains. Saying yes when you think/feel no is a habit. You will need to ‘reprogram’ yourself to listen to your inner voice and give your right answer between yes and no.

Saying no is about choosing you rather than choosing others; as nobody will do that for you it is then your role to choose yourself in any situation.


The third step will be to practice the no. Be sure to get enough preparation and start with easy situations.


In order to say NO it is essential to pronounce it: no, ‘no, Sorry’, ‘no, I can’t’, ‘no, I don’t want to’… out loud and twice if necessary.

Additional points to consider to say no with assertiveness

1. Don't rush in

Listen carefully to the request and allow time to answer when unsure. “Let me go back to you once I’ve checked…”; “I’m unsure at the moment, I will let you know by Monday”. That way you don’t commit without thinking.

2. Be honest

Tell the truth; do not hide it with excuses and lies. Saying no is way better than a lie, which could have significant implications.

3. Be kind

Saying no doesn’t mean being rude or disrespectful. Be assertive but kind and considerate to others’ feelings. “ I really appreciate being involved in this project, however, no, I can’t join you for this meeting, I already have too much work today. Thanks anyway”.

4. Don’t feel the need to justify

Saying no doesn’t mean that you need to justify and explain your choice every time. In some occasions you only need to say “No, I can’t join you”, “No, I can’t commit to this project”.

It is only if you want to and if it is important that you will explain or justify; but a simple and quick “ I already have too much in my plate” or “I will not be around then” will suffice.

5. Don't apologise

Just because you say no doesn’t mean that you need to apologise. You should only explain yourself only if you feel it is justified and right for you.

Too often when we struggle to say no we end up apologising so much that we finally make it a big deal when it wasn’t!

Say no infographic with 5 tips

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