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How to say no constantly & effectively

64 replies

sayingno · 16/12/2019 18:35

Hi everyone!

Not sure why, but I've name changed. I've been here for years under various username

I analysed my year and realised that not only that 2019 was the crappiest year of my life so far (mother in hospital, grandmother fell down the stairs and hurt her leg, car crash - and these are only the big ones), but I reached another sad conclusion.

I can't say no and a few people seem to always take advantage of it. Probably this is one of the reasons why I feel so drained, sad, and my energy levels are so low. So I decided to make it a resolution for 2020: saying no without caring that the CFs will get upset or without feeling guilty.

I have another relevant example where I might AIBU, but still curious what others think. So there's this woman I helped all year long, constantly (more than once a week sometimes). I wanted to say no so many times but I though she's my friend. So a few days ago she was sitting next to me and she had in her planner a list of people to buy for Christmas. Must've been 20-30 people, and guess what? I wasn't on that list. Now, I might be U, but I felt hurt. And it isn't about money, trust me.

So back to my original question: how did you learn to say no? Did your life change for the better?

OP posts:

Summercamping · 16/12/2019 18:38

Like everything else, the only way to get good is to practice.

Start small, and work your way up to the big stuff. Phrases like, I'd love to, but I can't, sorry, are good


sayingno · 16/12/2019 18:40

@Summercamping so what if someone asks you for something they know you have and it costed you time & energy to get and you don't want to do it?

OP posts:

Havaina · 16/12/2019 18:41

One tip I learnt was that when you’re about to respond to a request, don’t respond straightaway, take 10 seconds to think about the impact on you.

It’s simple I know, but it does work for me. I let my gut rule and if my gut says no, I say no.

E.g. someone didn’t have an Apple charger at work and I have two. The old me would have just handed over one of mine but I stopped to think about did I really want to give it away, and the answer was no.


sayingno · 16/12/2019 18:43

@Havaina that's actually great. But what would you have done if someone who knew you had 2 chargers asked specifically for one and you didn't want to give it away?

OP posts:

ohwheniknow · 16/12/2019 18:45

If you Google "cci assertiveness" there is a module on assertiveness skills that includes saying no. I found it really helpful.

Because it's not just about you being able to say no but also being prepared for and able to deal with people's reactions - which if they're not used to you being assertive could be a challenge in the beginning!

I actually realised when I worked through that module that I hadn't properly understood what assertiveness really was or how much it would affect my life to work on it.


ohwheniknow · 16/12/2019 18:47


Havaina · 16/12/2019 18:49

This did actually happen to me!

My sister asked to swap her old Apple charging lead with my brand new one. Hers is sooo old it looks dangerous, all wires exposed. Mine is brand new and perfect. The old me would have said ok but the new me said ‘Let me think about it for a while.’ Thankfully that was enough of a hint for her but if she had pushed it I would have said no, I really need this myself’.


DPotter · 16/12/2019 18:52

Practise. Practise. Practise.

It's OK to feel awkward at first but you can soon get the hang of it.
Agree with starting small although sometimes the 'nuclear option' is the only way with some people.

Have a few stock phrases to say and remember - never explain why and DON'T SAY SORRY!!! . They will only try and negotiate with you and if you're like me that's my weak point. So keep it simple 'thanks for asking, can't help you' , 'thanks for thinking of me, but I'll say no'. and then change the subject/ leave the room/ move the conversion along. You may well have to repeat again and again.

It makes life so much easier - not only do you have your time back but I find I'm not worried about what I will say if someone asks a favour. Less tension all round.


MrsTidyHouse · 16/12/2019 19:02

“Can I get back to you?” This can work. Or “I’m in the middle of something, and need a minute to think”.

As I get older, I find it easier to just say no, but for a long time it felt really rude.


GetM0t1vatedN0w · 16/12/2019 22:05

There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying NO sometimes and I have done so

What is stopping you ?


VaguelySensible · 16/12/2019 22:38

Things I have learned here on Mumsnet, which have worked:

"No" is a complete sentence.

ie you do not need to justify it.

But if you are under pressure to justify it:

"It doesn't work for me."

Something I have discovered for myself (having put the above into practice) is that "No" said comfortably, confidently, even with a smile, is accepted fairly easily, whereas a diffident, sad or worried "No" seems to result in more attempts to make me change my mind.


Stayawayfromitsmouth · 16/12/2019 22:42

No thanks.


Ohyesiam · 16/12/2019 22:46

In think for me it became easier to say no even I realised I don’t have to explain or justify myself.
Maybe “no” isn’t a complete sentence, but “ no, id love to but i I cant I’m afraid” is, and so it “ No I’m afraid not”’ and “ no , not with the week im having” . See also “ No , I’m going to be to busy/ have to much on/ won’t be c able to make time for that.”
Also it’s someone puts you on the spot you can give yourself a bit of space by doing things like looking through your diary before announcing you won’t have time, or saying you need to check the calendar , then text no ( to avoid confrontation obvs!)


Pandora71 · 16/12/2019 23:06

Don’t apologise for your Nos. Try “no, that doesn’t work for me”, “no, I can’t make that a priority right now” or just “no”


Andysbestadventure · 16/12/2019 23:17

No, thank you.
I'm busy that day, maybe next time.
What? No.
Are you serious?
Walk off laughing and forget the word 'no' through tears
Not for me, I'm afraid.
Why don't you ask Dave? (any random)
Sorry, can you repeat that? I drifted there.


Justtryingtobehelpful · 16/12/2019 23:26

I'm working on this for myself right now too. I found these books useful

<a class="break-all" href="https://www.[[//" rel="nofollow noindex" target="_blank">]] › When-...
When I Say No, I Feel Guilty: How to Cope, Using the Skills of Systematic Assertive Therapy: Manuel J ...

<a class="break-all" href="https://www.[[//" rel="nofollow noindex" target="_blank">]] › Courag...
The Courage To Be Disliked: How to free yourself, change your life and achieve ...

Good luck!


steppemum · 16/12/2019 23:28

think about all the different ways you can say it (like Andy says)

Think about ways to push them to arms length if you can't bring yourself to say no straight away:
I'll think about it
I'll get back to you
Umm, not sure... repeat and never say yes.

Remember if someone is cross, it isn't that they are cross with you, it is because they are cross that you haven't bent to their plans.
Why should you bend? When was the last time they bent to help you?

In your example with the apple lead and they ask you for your spare one, one way is to look puzzled/surprised and say - they are really cheap to order on Amazon. Or to say - fine, they cost xx, so I'll sell it to you for that. it makes them realise they are actually asking you for money. or just to say - no, I have 2 becuase I use 2. You don't need to explain further, when they say Where? How? no you don't? Just say - let me get this straight, you want me to give you a lead for free instead of you buying one for yourself?


CakeandCustard28 · 16/12/2019 23:34

Just say no. I was like you, I event spent my own money for other people to enjoy their hobbies at one point until I got sick of it and just said no. Didn’t need to say anything else, because what can they say back? Nothing. They’re not entitled to your help or time, they can’t force you. You’ll feel much better for it too psychically and mentally.


covetingthepreciousthings · 16/12/2019 23:44

Interesting to read the responses on this thread, as need to try be more assertive myself!


Letitbegin · 16/12/2019 23:47

I found it easier saying no when I stopped explaining why I was saying no. Like a friend wanting to meet up and I didn't want to I would explain why I couldn't and how much I had on that week and give details what I was doing now I just say no sorry got a lot on. You don't have to explain yourself to anyone!


CraftyYankee · 16/12/2019 23:50

Or the popular "No, that doesn't work for me." Then stop. Don't explain or justify. The more words you use, the more room you give CFs to wiggle in and challenge your excuse.


SandyY2K · 16/12/2019 23:54

Phrases like:
That doesn't work for me.

I already have something on that day/time

Can I get back to you on that.

I won't be able to do it till next week/month

I've got quite a lot on at the moment.

Are polite ways of declining or doing something at your convenience, on your terms.

If you find it hard in person..a text is good enough.


Foghead · 16/12/2019 23:55

I feel bad saying no sometimes so I do apologise but I think that works ok too.
Saying ‘sorry but I can’t. Have a lot on this week’ is effective.
I think it’s awful that you spent a whole year helping someone out and they don’t even seem to appreciate it. I would have no qualms about not apologising to them. I’d happily have as little to do with them as possible.


NearlyGranny · 16/12/2019 23:59

Never apologise, never explain. Just "No," or at the most, "No, that doesn't work for me."

If people persist or pout or protest, a calm, "I've said no already, " followed by more, "No," until you leave the conversation. If trapped in a car, at a desk, in a queue, break eye contact, start working or change the topic.

It's your time and money and things; you decide what happens. Practice makes perfect; start in the mirror!


steppemum · 16/12/2019 23:59

and although I probably wouldn't have the gall to do this in real life, the next time she asked I might be tempted to say - I see that after all the support and help I gave you last year, I didn't even merit a bottle of wine at Christmas. I'm afraid my good will and kindness have run out.

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