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When was the last time you said NO to something and didn’t feel bad about it after? I bet we’ve all been in situations where we’ve found it so damn hard to say no even though there was a genuine enough reason. I’m sure we don’t hesitate much to say YES to things, then why IS IT SO HARD FOR US TO SAY NO?!

It’s definitely more because of a conditioned way of behaving. Think about it- the way people behave with you when you say YES compared to the way they do when said NO. We fear disappointing others by saying No. Nobody’s saying that helping people in need of favour is in any way wrong, it’s not. But there is a limit to everything. Even if others are unaware of it, we need to understand our value and time before we agree to everything.  A big factor of not knowing when and how to say no is one’s need to please people. We’ve all heard about people pleasers and I’m sure there’s one particular person THAT COMES to your mind right now. Well, it could be your own self too! The bigger problem here is the way we think people will perceive us. We believe at most times that saying no will be rude of us, will make us unapproachable as a person. So we instead end up saying yes as that seems more polite. Here, we don’t prioritise our choices and well being. Yes you’ll end up making people happy by saying yes but at what cost? Are you pleasing yourself and keeping yourself happy by going out of the way for someone else?

Let’s look at some of the reasons why we end up saying yes when we mean to say a no. 

Fear of conflict 

I’m sure there have been times when just to avoid a certain argument or conflict with someone we have said yes a million times. It depends upon the kind of person you’re dealing with. It becomes even harder with people who have a hard time dealing with any kind of rejection. Knowing one’s personality traits, we find it better to just say yes to things so that it doesn’t lead to further challenges. 

Fear of being a disappointment 

Oftentimes there are situations where people are in desperate need of your help, be it work related or just about some personal needs. Even though we have our own problems or work load to deal with, just to not disappoint the opposite person we tend to say yes. Here we think more about their emotions and how they will feel about you not helping them. We fear letting them down. But finishing off your tasks at hand should be a priority first. It shouldn’t be the case later that you’re the one swamped with work as you were busy sorting out the other person’s needs. 


Fear of being left out 

FOMO is what we call this phenomenon – Fear Of Missing Out. Think about all those times when you agreed to go to events, parties, hangouts or trips even though you were dead tired or simply lacked the energy and time needed to socialise. As humans, introverted or extroverted, we need our time and space to replenish, rejuvenate and recharge ourselves. We need to accept the fact that we can’t be everywhere at all times. There are going to be plenty of moments where you’ll get to experience all the fun you missed out sometime in the past. Life figures out a way to give you those opportunities. This is in no way telling you to just become a homebody, but you need to learn to choose on what, when and where you’re spending your energy. 


Saying yes comes naturally to you 

People who tend to be ‘givers’ have the tendency to say yes to things at once. Their friendly nature will automatically have people asking them for more favour and in return they’re the ones happily agreeing to everything. This continues without them realising how time and energy consuming it starts to get. Being naturally helpful is not wrong, but everything should be done within a limit. You shouldn’t allow people to take you for granted. There needs to be a healthy balance in the extent of which you help others. 


Wanting to avoid feeling guilty later on 

If you’ve observed it’s comparatively easier to say no to people who aren’t as close to you as your family, friends, colleagues, etc. It so happens that we’re reminded about the times when a certain someone helped us with a challenge we faced. Then you feel obliged to return a favour. There’s no harm in doing that as relationships are a give and take. So to not end up feeling guilty, we agree to things quickly.

Saying no doesn’t always have to come off as a rude response. Even psychologists have said that people don’t take a no as badly as we think they do. Thinking about it from our own perspective, we try to be understanding of others when they say they can’t make it to a planned meet up. There are last minute emergencies that cannot be helped. Sometimes the universe is just so against you reaching a place on time that you have to cancel a meeting. Sometimes you can’t help your mood. You’re either mentally exhausted to continue with plans that were made a week ago or you just can’t handle that person on that particular day. Forget it, on some days you don’t need an excuse to cancel on things. If you don’t feel like it, a simple no is valid too. We’re human and we need a break too! 

Here’s when you must say NO 

It’s very important to identify signs of personal discomfort which will then help you to say no to things. When given a task, if you feel uncomfortable in any way because your personal limits and boundaries are being crossed, that’s when you should say no. At work if you’re being bombarded with tasks one after the other and it’s more than what you can take, speak up about it. There’s only a certain amount of work that can be done at one point of time. Don’t feel obliged to take up whatever is being delegated to you. Trust yourself and take a stand for your own well being. Don’t take it to a point where you’re overloaded with work. That’ll just make you less efficient and there won’t be any quality work happening. Don’t just say yes to please others. People pleasing is very common. But this trait can work against our own selves. It comes at the cost of our own well-being and happiness. 



Doing less will help you to deliver more. Lesser things to distribute your focus on will make you more efficient at your projects. Saying no to the right things and being assertive will give you the freedom to choose projects that align with your principles and values, which will in turn help your future goals. Be realistic about the things you undertake. You know your capabilities. Avoid taking up work that doesn’t come under your expertise. This will save your time and efforts. You know your limitations. For your own mental well being, it’s better to not bite more than you can chew. Self care is knowing when to say no to tasks. This will also prevent you from a burnout. Working long hours will not only affect your mental health but will also leave you with physical fatigue. Be mindful of your personal health as you need to take care of your mind, body and soul. 

There are times when we have to let go of things as we can’t fulfill everybody’s needs. Politely rejecting without feeling guilty can also be done in various ways. Here are some types of responses that’ll help you say no to things and people:

“I can’t commit to this right now. I’ve got a lot on my plate currently.”

“I would love to, but I know myself and I’m low on energy.”

“I wish I could make it work, but I need to focus on my mental health.”

“Id love to do this but I have another commitment that needs my attention.”

“I’d love to help but I’m feeling pretty burnt out lately.”

“We can try again on a different day.”

“I don’t have the bandwidth for it right now.”

“I’m honoured you asked me but I simply can’t.”

“Thanks for thinking about me. However, I can’t fit this in.”

“Unfortunately, I already have plans. Maybe next time?”

“No thank you, but it sounds lovely.”

I think I’ve convinced you enough on how saying no is not all that rude. And also ways on how you can be polite while saying no. Trust me, once you understand the importance of it, there’s no going back to previous habits of people pleasing and putting others before you.

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