Health Advocate Blog

Know when—and how—to say “no”

Do you have a friend or family member that always seems to be asking for a favor? Are you the go-to person for your loved ones when they need help? If so, you are probably well aware that this can be stressful and take up a lot of your time (and energy!). It may leave you feeling spread thin and prevent you from doing the things you need to do for you. Learning when—and how—to say no is an important pillar of self-care and overall well-being. Consider the following tips next time someone asks you for something.

When to say no

  • Take the time to think about the request. Is this something you can do easily? Is this something you have time for? If not, saying “no” might be the best thing for you.
  • Consider the impacts of saying “yes.” How will this affect things that are on your priority list?
  • Determine if saying “yes” will affect your well-being. Will helping cause you stress, emotional distress or negatively affect your well-being? If so, this might be a situation where you should say no.
  • Know your worth. When you become the go-to person for friends and family members—and maybe even coworkers—sometimes people may intentionally or unintentionally take advantage of your kindness and willingness to help. If you feel that you are repeatedly being asked in this manner, “no” is the best response to prevent this from continuing.

How to say no

  • Say no, but consider delaying your answer. Depending on the immediacy of the situation, when unable to help, you may want to think about delaying your response so as not to make the person feel shut down.
  • Be polite, but firm. Try not to hurt the other person’s feelings or leave them feeling rejected. Say no in a way that acknowledges their feelings while putting your own in perspective.
  • Find a compromise. Perhaps you’d like to help, but can’t do everything the other person is asking for or have a short amount of time you’re able to offer support. Rather than declining your support, offer assistance on your own terms.
  • Offer solutions. Maybe the person needing your help is so accustomed to your support that they ask you before considering their other options. When you decline to help, be prepared to offer solutions so that they can still get the support they need.

Don’t feel ashamed by taking care of yourself first. Have you ever considered the pre-flight safety speech given by flight attendants when traveling by plane? The flight attendant emphasizes that you must put your oxygen mask on prior to helping others with their masks. If the person next to you is struggling or unable to put their mask on, helping them first could cause you to pass out from a lack of oxygen, leaving you unable to help anyone. This message can be applied to many aspects of life. After all, if you are not taking care of yourself, how can you be there for others?