Learning how to say no

This is something I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to do, but usually fail. I have had a habitual reflex to say yes to people because I’ve always felt saying no would be letting someone down. Well it took losing someone very close to me to realise that sometimes you do just have to dig those heels into the ground and (politely) decline the request.

The so-called friend who is always happy to take but is absent whenever you’re needed. The family member who always ‘needs a bit of cash’ to see them through the month. When work is short-staffed because everyone’s got man flu. Admittedly, I’ve struggled to say no on many occasions (and still do – probably out of fear, karma will bite me in the rear down the line) but I’ve learned.

You MUST ask yourself this: “If I say yes, how will I be affected?”


If you’re running around for everyone else all of the time as well as trying to get on with the madness in your own life you will crash. Think, a car with no brakes going downhill – the end result is not going to be pretty.


We all live busy lives so your ‘free time’ is especially precious. When it comes to someone asking for help with something that consumes that haven of tranquillity you’ve been waiting for all week – an event, a lift to pick something/someone up etc – stop! Ask, is there someone else who could step in instead? This also applies to work requests.


It doesn’t matter whether it’s a fiver, £500 or more. Lending money to friends/family/colleagues can (and often does) end up messy – especially when it spirals. This walking bank would very much like to shut down – soon please! So my advice is don’t open that bank in the first place. Just explain it’s not about not trusting the person to pay it back, you just don’t want to change the nature of your relationship with that person. Instead, perhaps help them to look at the options available.

Loved ones

These ones are probably the hardest to say no to.  Should I really spend two hours ironing his shirts when he doesn’t lift a finger? Should I really spend the weekend shopping with my sister when I have a backload of work to catch up with? Mum needs my time but I need to work on my schedule for next week. Learn to say NO, however also learn how to have a balance because your loved ones won’t always be there.

Saying no isn’t always easy – if you’re like me, guilt tends to set in. So for a day, week, or just an hour, banish guilt from the process. Trust me, it’s like breathing in clean, fresh mountain air. And it’s healthy!


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On a weekly basis, we bring you fresh practical content around career, entrepreneurship & lifestyle.