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How to say NO?

Can you please walk my dog over the weekend?

Would you mind picking up some stuff from the grocery store on your way back from work? Would you mind staying a bit longer at work tonight? I have to pick up my kids from school. Is it ok if you could pick up Charlies’ aunt tomorrow from the airport?

Every day questions are sent our way that demand an immediate response. Often, we then feel affronted, flustered and stutter a quickly formed ‘Yes’. Yet, this yes, by no means, represents what we truly wanted to say, what we truly needed, what is truly working for us. In fact, this yes, is completely disconnected from our experience and its sole existence is to please the other in that moment. Only seconds later the consequences of this ‘yes’ become noticeable in our bodies. We feel agitated, frustrated maybe even furious. Yet, we will do as we told.

Why though did we say yes in the first place?

We felt rushed or bumped against the head, how we’d say it in German. Out of nowhere, without any announcement we get surprised or rather shocked with an uncomfortable request. Some of these requests can feel genuine and you can tell that a yes or a no will be accepted. Some requests however feel forceful and ingenuine and you sense that only a yes will do it for the other. Then, the pressure to perform in a particular way increases.

So, how can we be more genuine ourselves when being bumped against the head with a request?

First of all, take a moment before you respond. You don’t need to bombard an answer out there, so take a few seconds. It’s ok to make the other wait in our silence. It’s ok for it to feel awkward because you still have not responded after 5 seconds. You maybe want to take it a nudge further and even tell them that you need a moment ‘Let me just check in with myself for a moment’. What we demonstrate with such behaviour is that I hear your request and I take it seriously. I also take my own needs seriously and it might be that they do or don’t align with what you need me to do today.

Second, in order to learn to say no to others you have to become much better at SAYING YES TO YOURSELF. Then a NO to the outside world will simply become the consequence of saying YES to yourself. To give you an example:

A: Would you mind staying a bit longer at work tonight? I have to pick up my kids from school.

B: Let me check in with myself for a sec. Hm, I really hear you and that you need to get going, yet, I feel tired in my bones. It’s been a tough week working late hours. I notice that getting home on time tonight is important to me. So, consequently, I will not stay longer in the office tonight.

To conclude, learning how to say no starts by you saying yes to yourself.

I encourage you, give it a try and say YES to yourself today.


Do you struggle to say NO sometimes? Why do you think this is so hard for you? Take a few moments today to be aware when you respond to requests today. Be aware of the feelings that arise within you when you are 'bumped against the head' with other people's needs.


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