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How to stop saying yes when you really mean no

If you have a history of being a gold medal people-pleaser you may have some trouble using the word NO.

Such a wee, little word that for many of us, is so problematic. This can play out in so many different ways. Saying yes to another night out because FOMO (fear of missing out) has taken over even though you’re secretly desperate for a night in, curled up in front of Netflix. Saying yes to working back even though you’ve already made plans. Saying yes to a difficult client because they’re hard to say no to. The list goes on.

Constantly saying yes to the needs of others can often mean no time left to attend to your own. Your personal goals and self-care gets put on the back burner and then resentment starts to kick in.



Fear that saying no will make others angry or disappointed are common reasons why we say yes when we don’t really mean it.

Yes auto-pilot

From a coaching perspective it’s essential to look closely at your mindset around not being able to say no. Here are some reasons why saying YES might have become your default position:

  • Your self-worth is linked to how much you do for others
  • You can’t bear the thought of disappointing someone
  • You fear that saying no will make others angry and that you’ll be rejected
  • You feel guilty saying no
  • You fear people won’t like or include you if you say no
  • Everyone around you says ‘yes’, so you feel you should too
  • You have control issues and problems delegating (it’s easier for me to do this, XXX can’t do it the way it should be done etc)
  • You have serious FOMO and feel like saying no will isolate you
  • You’ve fallen into the trap of ‘should’ thinking – I ‘should’ say yes, I ‘should’ do this and I ‘should’ do that


Before you hit the yes auto-pilot next time take a moment to get some clarity around these important things:

  1. What are your current priorities and does what you’re being asked to do fit in with them?
  2. Have you set clear boundaries?
  3. What is your gut telling you? Go with it because your gut almost never lies


When you’re next asked to help, volunteer or take on extra work (especially of the underpaid / unpaid variety), consider these things:

  1. What does this commitment mean in terms of your time and energy?
  2. Are you saying yes because you really mean it / want to?
  3. Will saying yes have a negative impact on your own current personal goals or your stress levels and health?



Don’t feel you need to be an apologist and provide long and detailed explanations.

Changing your mindset

Once you’re aware of what’s driving the yeah, yeah, yeah train, consider changing your mindset around saying no.

Take your time before saying yes instantly. Think through the consequences. If it’s a partial yes, be clear with what you’re able to offer timewise and stick with it.

Don’t feel you need to be an apologist and provide long and detailed explanations. Be direct and take emotion out of the equation. An unemotive no is much easier to deliver. Remember you’re saying NO to the request, not the person who asked!

Being clear on your priorities and your values (more on values in a couple of days) will help. If service to others is high on your values list, then saying YES might be right for you. If you have pressing priorities in your life right now and you know that saying yes will tip you over the edge, then the choice is more straightforward.

Offer an alternative or don’t. Saying no can often give the person you’re saying no to an opportunity to figure out the best solution for themselves.

Sometimes yes to others can mean NOT saying yes to the things we really want to do.



Reproduced with permission from Next Act Coaching.

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Viv Fantin

Viv Fantin is an accredited personal coach who works with people who want to identify, set, and achieve realistic goals. She has seen all kinds of crazy as a music and festival publicist. Now in her second act, she is passionate about stress management and is on the never-ending quest to find the perfect work–life balance. She loves chai tea, music, reading and sitting in a dark cinema on a hot day. For more info visit www.nextactcoaching.com.au

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Homeloans Ltd.