The Best Way To Say 'No' And Not Lose Yourself

Have you ever felt backed into a corner?

You wanted to say “no” …needed to say “no”….knowing well that “no” would be the right thing to say, but somehow between your brain processing the request and your mouth opening, the word “yes” comes falling out?

It never ceases to amaze me how we make commitments all because we haven’t quite mastered use of one small word.

Notice Ididn’tsay simple.

Saying “no is never easy or simple.

The finality of “no” brings the burden of worry, guilt, and sometimes fear and shame. We don’t want to be misunderstood or perceived as rude, never want to miss out on a good opportunity, hurt anyone’s feelings or dishonor relationships.

But sometimes — often times actually – “no” is necessary. “No” is empowering, it can provide self-preservation, create boundaries, and “no” can open doors to future possibilities.

Recently I said “yes” to a clear “no” opportunity and while I’ve decided to grin and bear it this time, I wanted to be prepared the next go-round. To do so, I consulted the sage of sages: I went to Google.

I wanted to be prepared, have my script in pocket should the need arise again.

I read countless articles about how we should language our “no” because after all saying “no” and employing the art of tact are bedfellows, you shouldn’t have one without the other. After what seemed like forever, the articles were all pretty much the same. What I found were endless passive-aggressive ways to let the person down in order to keep the relationship in good standing. And you know what? I wasn’t satisfied.

Look, I’m Southern, we’ve mastered passive-aggressiveness with 3 simple words: bless their heart.

We don’t have to say what we think; we can smile and cuss you out at the same time. It’s a gift.

All the responses I saw to decline an “opportunity” felt like a maybe or a lame excuse, there was never something clear and direct.

I think I found the answer, you tell me:

When you’re asked to do something, assess whether you’re being asked from a place of love. You’ll know if the request is sincere…or selfish. Therefore, when you respond in-kind, do it from a place of love. Not spite, not hate, not fear of consequences, not from a place of lack or the need to fit in, but a sincere and honest response that will convey your truth. When you do that, there is no debate of about whether you did the right thing or not.

What do you think? How do you say ‘no’?


Cece Harbor is a freelance writer and information technology professional from Atlanta, Georiga. 

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