Do You Find it Difficult to Say NO?

How good are your NO skills?  Do you sometimes find you say yes, for fear of upsetting someone by saying no? I suspect we’ve all been afflicted by that from time to time and it certainly crops up in coaching. I’m often asked how do you say no gracefully to people without hurting their feelings? (If people don’t mind hurting someone’s feelings they rarely need my help!)

I’ve put together a few practical tips which may help you and which should still leave you on speaking terms with the person you have turned down.


It sounds mad, doesn’t it? You want to say no so think yes. This only works if you genuinely want to do something but can’t to do it at this point in time. Try saying:

‘I’d love to but can’t right now. Can you ask me again in a few weeks when I’m less busy?’


‘I really want to do it and I want to do it properly, which I can’t at the moment. If it can wait for a week/month I’ll gladly oblige’.

Get in First

If you can see a demand coming your way try to get in first. When you see that demanding person bearing down upon you in the office, act fast. Tell them how busy you are before they make an actual request. You might say something like:

‘Oh good to see you. I’m glad we’ve got an opportunity to talk now as my diary is full for the next month – I can’t fit in another thing’.

Keep Your Diary Up To Date

To be able to say no and be genuine you need to know why you can’t say yes. Sometimes we end up saying yes because we can’t think of a reason other than something troubling us in the back of our minds. We just have a nagging doubt that we shouldn’t say yes but say it anyway. Then we check our diaries and realise that we have over committed ourselves. Always try and know what commitments you have, social or work, then you’ll be ready with a genuine response.

Don’t Keep Apologising

I think it’s fine to start with ‘I’m sorry but… as you are really saying ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you on this occasion’. However, if you pepper your conversation with apologies you’ll begin to sound like you really could do it and don’t have a right to say no. You will be putting yourself in an inferior position. The tone of your voice is important too, as well as eye contact and body language. Speak clearly and firmly – you don’t have to be aggressive but neither you should be passive.

Value Yourself and Your Time

Sometimes at a subconscious level we may feel that our time is not as valuable as anyone else’s. Probably that Imposter Syndrome creeping in again. If you find yourself agreeing to do things that could easily be done by the person asking you might fall into this category. This may require a bit of work on your part but try repeating to yourself ‘my time is valuable and I am valuable’. It will remind you not to put yourself down. an help you say no when you need to.

Like any new skill it takes practice. Don’t leap in with someone you find most difficult to turn down. That’s like jumping in the deep end of a pool when you’re only at the paddling stage. You’ll be very fed up afterwards as you’ll probably sink… Instead try saying no when the stakes aren’t high, at least while you’re still practising.

PS The photo above is of  me and my daughter on one of our mother/daughter trips to the sun. The poor girl has probably had more coaching from me than anyone else alive. Still, I didn’t charge her… ;>) And she’s turned out rather well!

RenewYou is my one day personal course for women. It’s been described as ‘positively life-changing, and all without role play! I will be personally running one later this year in Bristol. Keep an eye out for it and if you want a reserve your place drop me an email.


Posted on July 11th, 2017 by

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