Monday, April 17, 2017

N - 5 ways to say NO!

How often have been have you been inundated with requests to help someone, accompany someone somewhere, complete the project on someone’s behalf, take someone’s place at work, at home, at some family function, babysit someone’s kid, or run an errand for someone…but you have been so neck deep with your own commitments and have wanted to refuse. But…you ultimately ended up saying yes, taking on an additional responsibility, straining yourself and wishing you could have somehow politely refused?

Happens all the time? Well, you aren’t alone. Many people find it difficult to say ‘NO’. Out of the fear of hurting someone, out of wanting to return someone’s favour, out of respect for someone position, whatever the reason, they get bullied into taking up tasks they would have wanted to refuse. They end up stretching themselves too much, get all worked up and end up short of pulling out their hair in despair!

Before you give in, consider these points.

Know your limits.

You are a human, not a robot. There’s only so much you can accomplish in a day. It’s therefore very important to know how much you can stretch yourself without keeling over. You know your routine, your commitments, and your limitations. Before you accept anything more, mentally find out if you can take up additional responsibility.


Of course, you cannot always give importance to your own work. There might be people who genuinely need your help. See, if you can prioritise the work, yours and the other person’s in order of importance, urgency, and need for your interference. If the work cannot happen without you, then you might have to make provision for it.

If you know that: 
a) the work doesn’t need you to be a part of it, 
b) the other person is simply using your goodness to transfer their burden to you, 
c) you yourself are flooded with work and 
d) it’s neither urgent nor important enough for you to leave everything and attend to it, here’s what you can do.

Say NO without actually saying it!

Take time to answer.

Never be in a hurry to reply. Many time, after we have accepted the responsibility, we think, ‘I should have said this’ or ‘I should have checked with my schedule first’, but we have already committed and then we cannot back out.

Take your time. Say, ‘Can I get back to you?’ Tell them, you’ll let them know if you can take the responsibility after checking with your commitments. That gives you time to plan your work. If it is feasible, you can help and if it isn’t you will know what to say.

 ‘You’ set the deadline.

Do a quick mental math. How much time will you need to finish your commitments before you can go about helping them? Tell them that you can do them the favour but not before a particular date or time. That way, you aren’t refusing them directly, but they also know that they cannot bully you into accepting their undue request. Say, ‘I can do this on Saturday’ or ‘I am free only after 4 pm.’ And if they are in a hurry, they will have to look for someone else.

Refer help.

If someone keeps leaving their kid with you to babysit every time they have to go out, suggest a babysitter. If someone needs you to shop for them, teach them how to do it themselves online. That way, first, you are not really refusing help, second, you are teaching them how to help themselves and third, they’ll get the hint that you are not always inclined to oblige and that they cannot take you for granted.  

Ask for a return of favour.

If someone wants you to take their place at work while they take a vacation, make sure to tell them you will want them to swap places with you in the immediate week after. If someone wants you to run an errand or babysit or complete a project, make them do the same or something else for you. But make sure they return the favour.

If they agree, it will be a fair exchange, or else it will give you an escape from them forever! They will not be able to ask you for a favour again, and if they still do, you will have the right to refuse. And people who are simply trying to take advantage of your goodness without themselves intending to help will not be able to face you again.

Say NO.

Sometimes, people don’t stop harassing you, or promise to return favour but don’t or don’t get hints. In such cases, don’t hesitate to say NO directly. ‘Sorry, but I cannot help you this time. Maybe, next time,’ should suffice. Be polite, smile and refuse.

Don’t get me wrong.

I don’t mean to suggest that one should be selfish and self-occupied all the time. Our society thrives only when we help one another. But at times, there are people who take advantage of the fact that you cannot refuse or those who try to put their burden on you so that they can enjoy. There’s no harm putting your foot down with such people and letting them know that you will not be taken for a ride.

Do you agree? 


  1. Yes! Awesome post. Last year my N was for No too. Sometimes saying No to something or someone is saying Yes to yourself. Many should say it more, especially women. Great read:-)

  2. As someone who finds it nearly impossible to say no, I quite liked this post. I can't even say no over emails, and much less in person!

  3. I feel it is much more difficult for me to say no in my personal life than professionally. The web around me is weaved to dense that I am not given a choice at all. Your post evoked a million thoughts in me. Thank you for this one.

  4. I've been in that situation earlier and out of politeness, I said Yes. But with time I realize how we stop being ourselves and ripped of individuality. Very well said.

  5. We've written on the same topic today. However, your tips sound quite kind on the person we need to say no to. Mine seem quite blunt in comparison. Nevertheless our thoughts kinda resonate strongly.

  6. Two bits stand out for me in this. One is to prioritize n second, take your time in replying back!!!
    Well written piece Shubhangi!!!

    Nonchalant morning walk

  7. In my case i tend to do everything myself and am bad at delegating tasks or taking available need to say no but must learn to ask for help

  8. this happens at workplace a lot... sometimes you don't even get time to reflect back and answer, and end up doing the task. I find it very hard to say no. Wonderful points there.

  9. Agree with the pointers shared. Saying NO is so important. Of course, it does not comes easily to most of us. But when we learn to say NO, we realize that it not only takes a burden off our shoulders but also makes us honest and true to ourselves!

  10. Asking for help and taking a moment to think before answering is something I really need to work on. Please teach me how to say no! Like literally... I don't know when will I learn this in life!


  11. Uff. I really had to read this. Co's I can never say No to anyone. How much ever I hate doing it, I will do it. :(
    Thailand Travel Stories at Kohl Eyed Me
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  12. I agree with you. And sometimes... yes, this is only a way to say "no". Saying it!
    Eva - Mail Adventures

  13. Saying No is so important. I write about it long ago my blog. I don't remember if we were connected then or not. But saying 'no' was a big challenge for me at that time. Having grown up in a family where it was not encouraged at all. I still lock horns with my Dad so often on this point.
    Btw, I'm lagging behind even more. But will catch up. Do visit my N post.
    Happy AtoZing!
    Chicky @

  14. These are really good tips and a very good reminder. I am learning to say 'No'. It's hard but possible.


At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person..deep gratitude for those who have lighted the flame within me!! your comments will be appreciated..

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