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How to say No when everyone expects you to say yes

How often do you say yes when you really want to say No?


If you say No do you feel your letting people down, missing out on an opportunity or even afraid of the consequences?


I’m someone who had a problem saying No but all that has changed!

I’m now caring with my wife for our 4 children, 2 of whom have Autism. One is verbal but with anxiety problems and our youngest is non-verbal, with a spectrum of issues which require intensive care and support.


When you are providing care on an almost 24 hour basis, the ability to say No is an essential skill for survival and your sanity.


Many people do not understand Autism as it’s hard to identify just by looking at someone. I have 4 boys and my children with Autism look as handsome and mischievous as their brothers.


That is why autism is often described as a hidden disability and as such people are unaware of the symptoms and the care that needs to be provided.


They do not understand just how much your life changes and innocently think life can just go on as normal.  Sadly this is not the case and when you’re a carer you have to say No a lot more.


No to social occasions, No to work offers and No to friends and family who want your time.

At first you feel guilty and that you are letting people down, but by saying No you can ensure you have the time and energy to allocate more effectively to looking after your health and that of your children.


It’s a trade-off and when you say No to something you don’t have the time to do or that could impact negatively on your child, you can instead give yourself the opportunity do the things that really matter.


William Ury the Harvard professor believes there are 3 responses to anyone who asks us to do something we can’t or don’t want to do:

  1. Accommodation: We say Yes when we want to say No. This usually comes when we value the relationship of the person making the request above the importance of our own interests.
  2. Attack: We say no poorly. This is a result of valuing our own interests above the importance of the relationship. Sometimes we are fearful or resentful of the request and overreact to the person asking.
  3. Avoidance: We say nothing at all. Because we are afraid of offending the other party, we say nothing, hoping the problem will go away. It rarely does.

Saying No becomes easier with practice and here are 7 techniques that I use, that may help you in life.


  1. You have the right to say No

To say No with confidence, you need to work on your assertiveness. Don’t worry I’m not advocating that you become an obstructive person, you can become more assertive without being aggressive.


Saying No is not a selfish act, it does not mean you are rejecting anyone. Far too many people believe that saying yes is polite and No is a rude gesture. This is a generalisation that you need to unshackle yourself from.


Is it not better to embrace the fact that you have the right and in some cases responsibility to say No?


Your time, your health, your happiness and your family are your most precious resources, why waste them on doing something you don’t want to or need to do.

You always have the right to say No.

  1. Be aware of what really matters

Whatever they are, your priorities should always guide when you say No. One of the most empowering things anyone can do is to identify who you are, what’s important to you and who really matters in your life.


Getting clarity on this, then developing and protecting it then becomes your priority.

Knowing what really matters in your life is an important step in the process of saying No.

  1. Don’t try and please everyone

You can’t be what I call a ‘People Pleaser’ all the time. If you attempt to help everyone, there is a cost. You pay this in time, energy and your own lost opportunities. Pleasing everyone can also have a detrimental impact on your own health and happiness as you solve problems and help everyone but yourself.


Your needs are important, so say No when it’s needed.


You can’t please everyone all the time and those that matter will understand.

  1. Take your time before you say No

I am not advocating avoidance, as this just kicks the issue down the road but you don’t have to say yes or No straight away. Sometimes its black and white and you can, but unless it’s an emergency think about buying yourself time.


Then you can reflect and identify, can you do what they want, is it a priority and do you want to do it?


Be honest with yourself and the person asking for the request, get back to them by the time you said you would.


Taking time means your better prepared to give a clear and confident response.

  1. Don’t be ambiguous

If you want and need to say No then do it confidently and avoid ambiguity.

Be honest and tell the person why you are saying No.   

  1. No is a sentence

I came across a great quote the other day that summed up for me the power of the word no.


“NO” is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation to follow. You can truly answer someone’s request with a simple No.”


If you believe the answer to a request should be No, than be confident in your body language and in how you say it.


Your answer should not need further explanation. No should be enough.

  1. Saying No with confidence takes practice

Saying No will move you outside your comfort zone but if you have confidence in yourself and your priorities right then it will get easier with practice.


Starting to say No when it’s the right thing to do does require courage and self-belief, but it can be one of the most empowering and rewarding changes you make in your life.


I know from personal experience that it’s not easy, but by saying No when I need to, I have the time, energy and space to give my boys the care they deserve and need.


John Joe McGinley

Glassagh Consulting July 2019


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