How to say No.

Last week we slide-tackled “Yes.” We covered off the reasons why many of us are so quick to say yes, and I offered up a few questions you can use to make sure that you use the word Yes more consciously and intentionally. This week we’re making friends with “No.” Here are a couple of strategies I’ve used with success: 


I know that sometimes it’s hard or awkward when you’re caught on the spot with a question or request. Best thing to do? Buy yourself a bit of time to consider your answer.  Give yourself the chance to simmer down and make sure that you really mean to say Yes. In other words, if you feel like you’re under pressure to reply right away, don’t. Politely ask for time to create separation between the question and your answer. Beginning with gratitude helps.

Here are some examples:

  • “Thank you for including me. Let me check my calendar and come back to you.”
  • “That sounds really interesting, thanks for thinking of me. Is it alright if I marinate on that and come back to you?”
  • “Thanks for the invitation! I just need to check in with my family/partner/boss and see whether this is something we can commit to.”
  • I’m so honored that you’ve asked me and I want to consider my answer carefully. May I come back to you with an answer by Monday?”
  • “I’d be so honored to help you but I need to look at my current commitments and make sure that I can show up fully for you. May I come back to you with an answer later today?” 
  • “You know how much you mean to me, and I’m so glad you asked for my help. My plate is so full at the moment so I just need to check in and make sure it’s something I can take on right now. Would it be alright if let you know whether I can help by tomorrow?”
  • “Thanks for thinking of me! Can you please send through some details about what you need to my email? Then I can better understand what you’re looking for.


So what if you’ve marinated on the request and your answer is a No? I think many of us say “Yes” sometimes just because it’s awkard to say no! Amiright?!? Some of us break out in a sweat just thinking about uttering that tiny two-letter word! So, I present to you a little mix-tape of how to say N.O.

  • Soften the blow of your No. Include a posture of appreciation in the way you phrase your no. “Thank you for thinking of me” or “This sounds really amazing” or “I’m honored to be called upon” are a nice way to soften the blow of your No. You’re letting the person know that what they’ve asked for is valid and important. 
  • Tell the truth. Srsly. You don’t need to make up excuses or tell a white lie. Lay it out there. People are empathetic to the realities of life. And the circumstances of your No can also shed a little light for people – it helps them understand that it’s not personal, it’s practical. Plus, people don’t like you less for saying no, they respect you more for keeping it real. Pssst…If they aren’t empathetic, maybe you should reconsider whether they are someone you want to be in relationship with. Just sayin’. 
  • Explain that you can’t offer what they need. If someone has asked you to commit to something that you really don’t have the resources for, you can politely decline by saying something like this, “Your project sounds really interesting and I am so honoured that you thought of me. That said, at this time, I’m not able to contribute the energy and time that your project deserves.” 
  • Change your perspective. Feel like you’re denying the person by saying No? Flip the script on that. You’re not denying them. You’re creating a space for someone else to say Yes. Someone who is better equipped for the job at hand. Someone with a better set of skills, or more time, or more energy to give. Your No makes way for someone else’s Yes. Can you dig it? Service versus servitude, people. You don’t need to be everybody’s everything. 


I hope these tools serve you and help you become a little more conscious when you say Yes, and a little more confident and comfortable when you say No. 

Now go on, flex that No muscle. Hold space in your life for the Hell Yesses by flexing your No muscle regularly. Practice. The more you use it the more dexterous it will become. 

Have other tips for our tribe? Join the conversation in the comments, we’d love to hear from you! xx

About the author
Caitlin Cady sitting on the beach at dusk and smiling softly at the camera

Caitlin Cady is an author, meditation teacher, and mama of three, on a mission to help you tune into your highest self and live to your full potential.

With certifications in Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation, and Somatic Stress Release, Caitlin’s work has been featured in Women’s Health, Vogue, Marie Claire, and Real Living and her positive perspectives and relatable, playful approach have inspired people across the globe to start living to their full potential.

Signed, Caitlin
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