To learn to say no, we have to first understand we say no when we don’t want to. Below are common reasons why people find it hard to say no:

  1. You want to help. You are a kind soul at heart. You don’t want to turn the person away and you want to help where possible, even if it may eat into your time.
  2. Afraid of being rude. Most of us are brought up under the notion that saying no is rude. This thinking is common in Asia culture, where face-saving (of self or others) is important.
  3. Wanting to be agreeable. You don’t want to alienate yourself from the group because you’re not in agreement. So you conform to others’ requests.
  4. Fear of conflict. You are afraid the person might be angry if you reject him/her. This might lead to an ugly confrontation. Even if there isn’t, there might be dissent created which might lead to negative consequences in the future.
  5. Fear of lost opportunities. Perhaps you are worried saying no means closing doors.
  6. Not burning bridges. Some people take no as a sign of rejection. It might lead to bridges being burned and relationships severed.



  • Simply say “no” or “I don’t want to do it.”
  • If someone asks for a reason, give one only if you feel you have information that the other party obviously needs or could benefit from. Do not give a reason if you think the information is unlikely to help the other party or will simply allow them to present a number of counterarguments.
  • Be sure where you stand first e.g. whether you want to say yes or no. If not sure, say you need time to think it over and let the person know when you will have an answer.
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t fully understand what is requested of you.
  • Actually use the word “no” when declining. “No” has more power and is less ambiguous than, “I don’t think so.”
  • Make sure your nonverbal gestures mirror your verbal messages. Shake your head when saying “no.” Often people unknowingly nod their heads and smile when they are attempting to decline or refuse.
  • Use the words “I won’t” or “I’ve decided not to”, rather than “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t”. This emphasizes that you have made a choice.
  • You may have to decline several times before the person “hears” you. It is not necessary to come up with a new explanation each time, just repeat your “no” and your original reason for declining.
  • If the person persists even after you have repeated your “no” several times, use silence (easier on the phone), or change the topic of conversation. You also have a right to end the conversation.
  • You may want to acknowledge any feelings another has about your refusal, “I know this will be a disappointment to you, but I won’t be able to – However, you don’t need to say “I’m sorry” in most situations to apologize for your refusal. Saying “I’m sorry” tends to compromise your basic right to say “no.”
  • Avoid feeling guilty. It is not up to you to solve others’ problems or make them happy.
  • If you do not want to agree to the person’s original request, but still desire to help her/him out, offer a compromise: “I will not be able to baby-sit the whole afternoon, but I can sit for two hours.”
  • You can change your mind and say “no” to a request you originally said “yes” to. All the above applies to your change of mind.



Wellness Professionals at Work Prospectus book


Add your details below to receive our prospectus straight to your inbox

Thanks! Please check your email for your download.

Enter your details below and find out the course you should enrol in.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Skip to content