How To Say No Confidently

A recent article in The Press, written by Karen Riley, offered some tips on how to say ‘no’ without guilt or explanation. 

Karen is a Christchurch-based women’s well-being specialist, author, inspirational speaker, writer and mother of two.

  • Stop, pause and think before responding, giving you time and space to consider your response. If you would like more time before answering, say you will need to get back to them at an agreed time.


  • Remember less is more – respond with a succinct statement, then stop. We are often uncomfortable with silence and feel the need to fill it with explanations justifying our decisions. Offer an explanation only if necessary.


  • If you are worried about hurting someone’s feelings or letting them down, say no with empathy and understanding, acknowledging your regret at being unable to say yes.


  • If someone will not take no for an answer or pressures you to change yor decision, use the broken record technique – repeating your statement or response until the other person accepts your decision. If they persist, distract them by changing the topic of conversation. Ask open questions, turning the focus back on them or end the conversation.


  • If speaking on the telephone, hold your hand up when saying no. This powerful visual aid helps you feel strong and assertve, even though you may feel nervous or anxious.


  • Practice saying no at home or in front of a mirror.


  • Use visual reminders and positive affirmations, such as “I say no without guilt or explanation” or “I have strong boundaries between work and family life”. Write these down and display in your diary, personal organiser, calendar or fridge.


  • Remember it is OK to say no. If helpful, write down and acknowledge any feelings of guilt, then take action, let them go and move on. when making a decision, trust your intuition and common sense.


  • Consider you personal and family values: what is important, what is acceptable, and what is not. Be prepared to stand up for what you believe in. Do not be influenced, roped in or pressured by other people. Remember it is OK to be yourself. If you want to change or improve how others treat you, start small and simple. Choose one particular thing you find difficult to say no to, gradually building up your confidence and self-belief.


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