How to Say “No” and Why Saying "No" Will Improve Your Life

How to Say No to Overcommitting and Avoid Overwhelm

How to Say No

Most women are people pleasers who do not know how to say no. And, not only do we want to please the people in our lives, but we are also often caregivers. We want the best for our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. So, we do as much as we can for these people to keep them happy, healthy and successful. But what happens when we go too far? What happens when we are so busy saying yes to everyone around us, that we are constantly having to say no to ourselves?

We burn out. We get agitated. We get snappy. Get feel overwhelmed and depressed.

Next to your health, your time is your most precious commodity, and just like your health, you need to take care of your time. To do that, you need to prioritize your time, and you need to make your “you time” a priority as well. Make sure you are doing the things that you really want to do, rather than only the things you have to do. Now, this doesn’t mean blowing off all your jobs and commitments. It just means learning to choose what jobs and commitments are not only good for your financial wellbeing and stability, but also for your mental and spiritual wellness. And it also means learning how to say no.

Related: Improving Brain Health for Women Over 40

The Cool Stuff That Happens When You Learn How to Say No

Learning how to say no firmly yet politely is the first hurdle you’ll face when learning to stop over-committing and better prioritizing your time. There are many health and wellness benefits to learning how to say no:

Saying No Will Save You Time (Obviously)

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We all know that our time is finite, but even though your hours are limited, you are in control of how you spend your time. Yes, you have a job and commitments, but make sure you’re choosing the right commitments. Make a list, either an actual, physical list, or a mental list, and prioritize your outside commitments. 

Obviously, you need to eat and live in a home, so work will probably rank pretty high on that list, along with paying the bills and keeping the kids alive and out of danger. Work your way down until you get to the commitments that you no longer see as constructive or that bring you happiness. 

Hate going to PTA meetings even though you’ve been the PTA President since your little princess was in Kindergarten? Guess what? Someone else is waiting in the wings and will gladly take that burden onto themselves. Let them. 

Do you always cook a big family meal on Sundays and have the family come around, but lately, you wish you could go to the beach and finally relax on Sunday instead? Guess what? Your family won’t starve if you go the beach one Sunday. Heck, order them some take out if you must. But get thee to a beach! 

Don't let other people dictate how you spend your time, especially if it’s something you don’t want to do, even if---especially if—it’s something you do purely because everyone expects you to. 

Saying No Will Reduce Your Stress

Have you ever agreed to do something for someone and immediately regretted it, leading you to feel stressed about making time and taking the effort to get the requested task done? Yeah, been there, done that…a million and one times. 

Stress causes as many health problems as a poor diet. And one of the top reasons we as women feel stressed is because we are over-committed. We have to find a way to strike a balance between committing ourselves to the needs of others and taking the time to care for ourselves. 

Related: Self Care Activities to Flip a Bad Day into a Great One

Saying No Will Help You Feel Stronger and Energized

When you make yourself a priority and learn how to say no to someone else, you're actually learning how to say yes to yourself. And, if you’ve said no in a firm but polite manner, the person you let down should not begrudge you. If they do, guess what? They didn’t deserve your dedicated time in the first place. Once you learn how to firmly and politely turn down requests for your time, you will notice that your self-confidence will get a boost. The more you practice saying no, the easier it becomes. 

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Assisting with projects you really don't have time for drains your physical and emotional energy. Pour your energy into the activities and commitments that nourish you in some way, be it financially, emotionally, or physically. This will make you more fulfilled, energized, and successful. 

Why are We So Afraid of Learning How to Say No?

Why are we so compelled to do everything that is asked of us? We even do things for other people that we put off doing for ourselves. This is crazy pants. And, what’s even crazier is that we know it’s crazy pants, but we still say yes because: 

Women Have a Natural Desire to Be Helpful and Act as Caregivers

We’re too damn nice all the time. And don’t get me wrong, being nice is a good thing. But not when it comes at the sacrifice of our own happiness and productivity. Remember, you're only one person. You can't help everyone, and the person you need to help first is yourself. 


We as women tend to give and give and give until we are empty, and then we are not only left with nothing to give ourselves, but also, with nothing to give to others as well. So, if you feel guilty turning down a request, even though you know it’s going to cause you stress and less time for yourself, remember that if you are empty, you can’t give, and that doesn’t help anyone.

We are Afraid that Saying No Will Make the Other Person Mad at Us

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We are so afraid of upsetting other people that we are willing to upset ourselves. Do you dread the possibility of making someone mad at you? Do you lose sleep worrying if you do enough for someone?


Then, congratulations! You are a people pleaser. That is great for everyone in your life, except for you!

Remember, if you politely decline someone and they react with anger, they don’t appreciate you. They just appreciate what you can do for them. 

How to Say No--Literally

"I’m sorry, but now is not a good time."

This is the classic polite decline, and that’s because it works; it’s a way to say “no” while at the same time, not make the person feel personally rejected. This phrasing demonstrates that you would have been willing to help, if you had the time, but unfortunately, you just aren’t able at this time. It’s not important to explain why it’s not a good time. You don’t owe anyone an explanation on your busy schedule (except maybe your mom or your boss--maybe.)  

"I’m not sure if I’m able to. Can I get back to you?"

If you need time to assess if you want to commit to the request or not, this is a polite way to give yourself the time to think it over. This particular phrasing implies to the listener that you would like to be helpful, but you might have other commitments and you need time to look over your schedule, or you are waiting to see if a time slot will open up in the future.

"I don’t think I’m the best person to help you with this."

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Do not agree to do something that you don’t know how to do, even if it’s embarrassing to admit that your skills fall short in a certain area. And, worse, don’t agree to do something that you aren’t skilled in and then cram to learn the skill, taking up even more of your time. If, however, you know someone who does have the ability or experience, don't be afraid to suggest pairing them up. If it's a workable match, both participants will thank you for it.

"Sorry, but I can't."

It might seem impossible to you that you’d ever be able to just straight up say that you are sorry, but you can’t. However, every time you do, saying "no,” gets a little bit easier. Remember, this is the most direct response you can give to someone who is asking for help.


So, Just Say No

Learning how to say no probably won’t come naturally to you at first. For some people, it will always be a struggle, but you are given only a finite amount of time, and you need to take care of your own health and wellness. You are not required to help everyone with every request they make of you. 

Remember, saying no does not make you a bad or selfish person. And when you focus on being productive for yourself, it generally makes you healthier and happier. 

Do you find it hard to say no? Let us know in the comments.

Michelle Jolene

eI am a certified Health and Wellness Coach and Life Coach. I am the founder of, 40yearflip--a self help blog that focuses on empowering woman over 40 to flip their habits, flip their health, flip their happiness, flip their confidence, and flip their lives to reach their full potential. Don't flip out. Flip your life.