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  • Gladys Agwai

How to Say No and Be Unapologetic About It!

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes to quickly and not saying no soon enough.”-Josh Billings



Have you agreed to do something at work or home knowing you feel overworked or not rested? Immediately you feel a rush of emotions thinking of ways saying yes will put you out, how you feel unappreciated, and want to back out of it. But you do not want to break your word or create conflict. You feel resentful, used, and unappreciated even though “you” said yes. You feel overwhelmed, guilty, and full of shame not knowing how or if you can really get the request done.


You overcommitted and disappointed with yourself that you did this – again and will disappoint others. Your relationship suffers. And you swear you will never overcommit again and will set boundaries. But it happens again – you just could not say “no.” This has become your pattern of regret. Why is it so hard to say this simple word? “No” is often associated with being selfish or rude and leaves you packed with guilt, shame, or fear. For example, you have the guilt of not rising to the challenge, the shame of being a people pleaser who is not able to please, or the fear of disappointing someone important in your life all with its consequences.


You place this pressure on yourself. However, saying “no” means you know your value and respect yourself enough to stand up for your beliefs. Your time and energy are precious limited resources. When used wisely, positive outcomes for your personal and professional growth and your overall well-being will be the result.


The difficulty that comes with saying no could be from your childhood when raised to believe saying no is bad or when taught to be polite and forthcoming. Unfortunately, not being able to speak up for yourself continues through adulthood if not modified causing communication and self-assertion issues in personal and business relationships, performance, and productivity. Saying no is also difficult when low self esteem has you doubting your capabilities, worthiness, and if you are enough. Another hesitation to saying no is your strong need to belong seeking constant approval even when the connection is toxic that causes you more harm than good.


You must learn your internal signals of personal discomfort when asked or you volunteer to do something. Saying no is a good thing when you are uncomfortable and feel:


• Guilty or obligated – advocate for yourself.

• Overloaded and overwhelmed – prioritize and eliminate

what does not matter.

• Your personal boundaries crossed – stand strong.

• Sacrificed to your own detriment – get your power.


When saying no, you will be more able to achieve your personal goals preventing burnout. You are more likely to deliver quality work, improve personal and career relationships, and performance. You will also be more realistic about your capabilities choosing what fits your skills, experiences, energy, and time. It seems so logical to just say no. But it is overwhelming, a gut churn, and can appear harsh. Here are artful ways to say no differently:


• Thank you for thinking of me, but I cannot.

• I have another commitment.

• I do not have the bandwidth right now.

• No, thank you, enjoy!


I personally decided that I do not have to tell a lie to say no, I choose not to explain, and I am unapologetic about it. Saying no is liberating. Being comfortable saying no means you must:


• Practice saying no.

• Be clear, concise, and straightforward.

• Show gratitude for the offer.

• Take time to consider making informed decisions.

• Be respectful yet assertive.

• Know how to use influence to achieve your desired outcome.

• Ask for guidance from those you trust.


When you decide to say yes, have the time and energy to complete it, ensure it adds value to your life, and it is important enough to say no to something else. Even if you said yes and then realize you should have said no, it is all right to circle back to say no. It is better to make the right decision late than to continually follow the wrong one out of guilt, shame, or fear. Set and stick to your boundaries. Poor boundaries will ensure you overextend yourself allowing others to say and do things that will hurt and keep you from being your authentic self. Release yourself from self-doubt and the outcome of what others think about your decisions.


You do not have to continually say no to yourself and yes to everyone else. It causes resentment that isolates you feeling as though you need to hide from unrealistic expectations. Love and respect begin with self-love and self-respect.


“Freedom is not the ability to say yes. It is the ability to say no.”


Article written by Gladys Agwai:



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