11 ways to say no (with thanks, guts and grace)

Anger has a taste.

It’s bitter, chalky and anything eaten after it just tastes bad.

It lingers in your mouth long after you didn’t say no, but wanted to.

It’s a drop of poison that no vitamin, exercise regime or organic diet can do anything about. Learning how to say no is the only remedy.

Fact: Learning how to say no with guts and grace is a delicious skill.

Learning it could save your life.

Learning to say no doesn’t mean that life will be devoid of love, acceptance, security and companionship. BUT we’ve had a steady diet of such thoughts that seduced us into believing so. A closer examination reveals the true nutritional content of those beliefs.

When we refuse to say no, it is us that keeps life stagnant and flat. In reality, learning to say no means willing to risk being fully alive – to actually have the connection and intimacy that we crave in the ways destined for us. It means that we are nourished and in return can nourish.

We are socialized to be nice, learn to say yes to please others, avoid saying no to please others, believing adamantly that we control how others feel. We hurt ourselves in the ways that we fear being hurt by others.

Ironic isn’t it?

When you can’t say no, but want to, it is you that abandons yourself, it is you that denies yourself acceptance, it is you that refuses to show love, loyalty and honour to yourself.

It wouldn’t hurt a bit if everyone understood a little Jung, to see that we are all just shadows and mirrors for one another.

Saying no IS a practice

Before you ever say no to anyone, first think gratitude. You may struggle in that relationship and saying no may feel really difficult. And here’s why: They are simply your best teachers for helping you learn the power and beauty of saying no with guts and grace.

You might think that not saying no is more comfortable, but it’s just familiar territory. If it were truly comfortable, you would have no issue whatsoever with saying yes as you do to everything that you do. As with all practices whether playing an instrument, learning a language, or studying a course the purpose is to grow the depth and breadth of what’s possible.

Make it real: Role play “saying no” with a trusted friend. Ask them to say all the things that you’re afraid to hear someone say back to you. If you can “role play” it, you will “real play” it inevitably. Imagine the freedom of not feeling hurt, guilty, mad or sad for saying no. Imagine being okay with hearing no yourself. This is peace.

11 ways to say no (print and practice!)

  1. “No. But thank you.”
  2. “I’m sorry, I’m unable to do that right now. Feel free to ask me again in the future. It might be a better time then.”
  3. I can’t do that right now because I’m doing [and share what’s got your time occupied if you’re sure the person will respect your choice. Respect your intuition or gut on this one. Sometimes it’s not useful to say what you’re doing instead and sometimes it is].”
  4. That’s not something that I’m comfortable with. [Leave it at that if that’s what feels right. Leave out the guilt of needing to explain yourself with more. It makes you sound like you think you’re doing something wrong when there’s nothing to feel guilty about. You’re doing something new and that feels scary. It’s new territory. If you still feel guilty, talk to someone about that or journal about it. Get the insight about your core belief system.]
  5. “That doesn’t work for me (right now). I’ll let you know if that changes.”
  6. “As it is, I’m saying no. Are you willing to discuss it and let’s see if we can come up with something that works better for both of us/everyone? [This is useful for when you are ready to start asking for there to be room for you in the decision-making if someone really wants you on board. If not, the truth is that it’s not worth your time and now you know what the truth is].”
  7. “I wouldn’t feel good about doing that, so I’m going to honour what’s right for me. (Do what feels right for you).” [No one can argue with your feelings. No one can tell you that you don’t feel as you do].
  8. “I’m trying something new for myself and am going to decline this time.” [You might end up in a conversation about why you’re doing something new for yourself and create a connection and greater understanding].
  9. “I really don’t want to do anything feeling resentful or angry. I care very much about our relationship, so I’m going to need to say no this time and hope that you can understand/find someone else to help you this time.”
  10. “It just doesn’t feel right to me. This is what would make it feel right to me if my participation is really important to you. [Name what would make you want to say yes and find out if there’s a match. Let go if there’s not].”
  11. Two examples of how to return to a situation that you said yes to and want to change your mind now (yes, it is okay to change your mind contrary to popular belief):

“I know that I said that I would do [name what you said you would do], but I’m actually not willing to. I would be willing to [say what you would be willing to do to help instead – for example: help you find someone else to do it].”

“Remember, I said yes to [name what you said yes to]. I didn’t realize it until afterward, but it’s not something that I want to do/can do. If I did it without saying how I really felt, I would be mad at you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t admit that before.”

Saying no isn’t about being cold to one another. It’s about staying in connection and deepening it. It’s the connection we hope we’ll get from saying yes habitually, but don’t actually get. Allowing yourself to be as you are, allows others to be as they are too. Life is tastier that way.


Hi there! My name is Sabrina Ali – I’m a writer, transformation coach and story alchemist. I help people articulate and  translate themselves into truth, beauty, bold n’ soul. If you like my work, consider yourself personally invited to my place for more: www.makebelieveforreal.com, follow me on twitter @thewitchofbliss, add me on facebook, and check me out on linkedIn. Looking forward to hearing from you!

4 thoughts on “11 ways to say no (with thanks, guts and grace)

  1. I always used to perceive the word ‘no’ as a negative. Thanks for the new perspective on how saying ‘no’ can strengthen boundaries, trust and clarity with others. I like all of the options too!

  2. Pingback: The rhetorical rhetoric of critical thinking (and how Sweden showed me love) « Make.Believe.

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