6 Ways to Just Say No (Even When It’s Hard)

Because you should do what you really want.

By: Karin Eldor

Considering no is one of the smallest words in our vocab, it can certainly make a big impact. People don’t like to hear “no” and are often shocked when they do hear it. And considering all the articles and books focusing on how to say “no” with poise, it makes us wonder why we still struggle to do it.

But saying “no” can lead to so much YASSS. Trust.

For starters, being known as a people pleaser can make you tired af. Yes, karma is kween, but you need to please yourself first—otherwise, everyone will want a piece of you (and you’ll be so drained, you’ll just want to peace out).

Saying “nah” and standing firm on this decision ensures you’re not living according to someone else’s narrative. The more “no” becomes your new M.O., the more time you free up for the stuff you love doing.

So whether it’s a coworker, your S/O, or your fam convincing you to go out on Friday night when all you want to do is binge on Black Mirror, these noes will prove you’re no-nonsense.

And, tbh, one of the greatest things about saying “no” is that it keeps you in control. And when you exert your right to refuse, it will also lead to more focus and more productivity.

Need some help to master your “no” without creating bad karma? We’ve got your back.




Standing your ground with a definitive decline is key. The moment you start pausing and inserting some “ummm… I feel bad… I don’t know”—you’re done for. Keep it short and simple; less is definitely more in this case, guys. As much as you’re trying to finesse the “no,” offering up excuses will only open up the window for the other person to try to negotiate.



Choose your words carefully. In a recent post on Science of Us, writer Shaunacy Ferro highlighted some advice for owning your “no.” A refusal that features “don’t”—as in, “I don’t lend my Gucci mules to anyone”—is more powerful than one centered around “I can’t.”

“Don’t” is a powerful way of drawing a line in the sand and making your boundaries super clear. Ain’t no negotiating here.




As much as you aim to please and are hesitant to refuse a favor, the longer you wait, the worse it is. You know, kind of like a bikini wax. Just do it. Tell yourself it’s NBD, take a deep breath, and “pass this time around.”

Putting it off because you’re avoiding conflict is worse because you’re leaving the other person in limbo, anticipating your response. The sooner you’re clear about your stance, the sooner the person making the request can line up their plan B and you can both move on.



It’s even more critical to manage expectations at work, no matter how much you want to make a good impression and especially if you want to ensure you’re as efficient as possible.

Meeting request from a coworker for 7:30 AM? How about hitting “decline.” Joining a committee when you’re already overworked and overstretched? No bandwidth for that. Attending a brainstorm session when you’re on a tight deadline, on a day of back-to-back meetings? You’re over-committed so it’s a “hard no” to over-scheduling.

You’re in control of your work schedule—even if you’re not the boss—so if you’re finding it challenging to be productive and stay focused, it’s important to pass on the distractions coming your way.

For more ammo on prioritizing, make Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less your next must-read. You’ll never be spread too thin again.




Yup, when you’re saying “no” to someone, it’s easy to feel guilty (especially if they throw you mad shade). No one likes to be turned down, but you need to look out for yourself. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to ask, but it also doesn’t hurt to say “no” if the request will add stress to your life.



*Disclaimer: Kindness, support, and empathy are important virtues, especially coming off a not-so-sweet 16 and starting off a new year. Women need to band together and lift each other up, now more than ever. But this kindness needs to start with yourself. So if someone approaches you about an awesome project “you just have to get involved in” or a recruiter high-key wants you for a new job opportunity, and both are simply meh, then say “no”—and move on.

Everything you do should be done with passion, or not at all. Make this your new mantra for 2020. YAS!


Want more stories like this?

The Bad Habit That Is Sabotaging Your Success
This Is the Best Career Advice We’ve Ever Gotten
4 Women on How They Negotiated $10,000+ Raises