How to Say No



I have a confession to make; I find saying “no” really hard to do.

I don’t like conflict and I genuinely want to help people so I often find myself saying yes when I really want to say no.

Saying ‘yes’ can lead to great opportunities and meeting some fantastic people but it can be also be really exhausting!

The problem we have at work is that we want to be seen as a team player. We don’t want to appear boring or difficult to work with.

But, if we always acquiesce, then we can end up feeling pressured, or maybe even bullied and that will lead to feelings of resentment.

Conversely, if we do refuse a request, we can feel guilty and worried that we might have offended someone.

It is a minefield.

Do you also find it hard to say no?  Do you answer yes to any of the below?

  • Go to a dinner party when you really want to catch up on your favourite TV show?
  • Can you attend this meeting for me?
  • Do you want to join the work team run?
  • Can you host Christmas lunch and all the family?
  • Can you cover Jane’s workload today, as she is sick?

If you find yourself agreeing to do things you don’t want to more often than you should then it may be time to take back some time for yourself.

This quote from Warren Buffett may help you to say ‘no’: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything”.

Tips to say no at work

1. Reframe

I am currently doing this great online business programme called B-School and it has really helped me reframe and learn to say ‘no’ more easily, swiftly and, more importantly, without the guilt.

When I find myself wanting to answer ‘yes’ to something, I stop and think about what that ‘yes’ actually means in terms of what it would displace that I’d rather be doing.

For example: I’m asked to attend an event. The wanting to help and wanting to please part of me wants to say ‘yes. I’ll come.’ So I think about the things I could be doing in that time. The things that I really want to do – such as working on my book or writing the content of my first webinar.

I then find it easier to say no to a particular request because then I’m effectively saying ‘yes’ to doing something that will help me grow my business.

2. Offer an alternative

If you can’t start a project at work this week maybe you can offer to start it next week?

3. Take time to consider the request 

Assess the pros and cons before you refuse to take on a piece of work your boss has requested that you do.

Consider if it will it help you with your overall career goals. Will it be a good opportunity to network, increase your salary or gain exposure to a different team? If it helps with any of these goals then it may be in your interests to take it on for its wider benefits.

4. Say no in person 

If you are able to refuse someone’s request face-to-face then the message is likely to be better received as you can lose the intended tone in an email.

5. Ask for help prioritising

Ask your boss if you need help prioritising your workload. Discuss together what can either be postponed for a few days or delegated to another team member. It’s even possible that such a discussion might bring about the realization that actually, this ‘thing’ is no longer required.

6. Practice 

If you are normally a ‘yes’ person then start small or practise with friends or family.

Once you’ve said no a few times you’ll get more confident with it and you’ll also start to enjoy the benefits of having some more time to say ‘yes’ to the things that you actually want to do.

So, my biggest challenge that I have set myself this month is to say no to more things without feeling guilty.

Please feel free to join me. You’ll be amazed how liberating it is.


Caroline Arnold 

Executive Coach

M: 07886 794 742


T: @carnoldcoaching

F: Caroline Arnold Coaching

I: Carolinearnoldcoaching