How to say ‘No’ and maintain the relationship

2 Jun 2023 | Blogs | 0 comments

How often do you find saying No tricky? Frequently we can worry about letting someone else down, or worse ruin a relationship. Sometimes it is just quicker to do it ourselves. We regularly don’t say No for fear of losing rapport and this is deeply linked to our sub-conscious desire to keep us safe, and minimise the risk of being ‘outside the group’ as  historically our safety is greater if we are part of a group.This is a complex subject and not one that is easy to navigate. We may feel that it goes against our inbuilt desire to always be helpful. After all, helping others is good and makes us feel useful and important, right? And whilst that is true, here are a couple of perspectives that may help you build the insight as to why it isn’t always the best way ahead. We can look at this from two ways.

One is, what is the impact on the other person of us never saying no? And two is, what is the impact on us of never say no? We will look at this through the work context.

Lets address the first one of the impact on the other person. When we agree to other peoples requests, sometimes it is worth considering whether we are actually helping grow and develop their confidence if we do it for them? Or are we disempowering them by giving them the message that ‘you are not capable’ and therefore I will do it for you? There are fo course circumstances that it is only right and correct that you do the task but often there are times when we could take more of a ‘coaching’ approach and encourage them to come up with their own solutions and ways of doing things. Often in teams the culture can fall into ‘you’re the leader’ therefore you decide, and I then don’t have to take responsibility for the outcome and even better, I can blame you when or if it isn’t successful. The downside of not saying No is that culturally your team will always bring you their problems rather than start to use their own initiative and bring you their solutions. Nearly every Team Leader that I have ever met, genuinely wants to grow and develop their team. So be mindful as why and when you are saying ‘yes’. Take a moment, pause and just ask yourself, is this an appropriate time and opportunity that the team member/ a n other, could grow and develop?

The second perspective is what sort of impact does it have on us if we don’t say No? I’m guessing I don’t need to go into too much depth as you will already have the answers for yourself. Initially it feeds our sense of importance and that we are of value. However, with all things there is a tipping point.  All too soon we get to feel overwhelmed by demands. We may get tired and lose precious energy. It becomes difficult to juggle competing priorities. We are managing all the ‘risk’ personally, rather than giving it back to the organisation or sharing responsibility with the team. The stress and toll this takes, can lead to needing time off sick just to recover.

Looking after ourselves is key to our own mental health and wellbeing. Being boundaried with our time and valuing ourselves sets a good example and we can role model good behaviour. Reviewing our own expectations for ourselves and our team members in times of pressure can help us navigate a path through.

So how can we say ‘No’ more easily? Often we have formed habits to questions when we are put on the spot. We don’t get enough time to think about it or feel uncomfortable saying ‘No’ so therefore fall into an endless trap of agreeing.

The first step is –

To create a better habit. Reflect and help yourself identify what the person or situation may be when this happens. What sort of traps do you fall in to? E.g. with certain co-workers, or certain topics or projects, or family or friends etc.

The second step is –

Once you are clearer about when you may get into this situation you can think of some examples of things you could say.

Such as… “that sounds really interesting – give me some time to think about it and Ill get back to you”

“right now I have rather a lot on, but really appreciate you asking me”

“I’d normally love to help, but am currently overstretched – have you thought through what solutions may work for you?”

“that’s a very kind offer but I sadly don’t have the capacity right now”

“I believe in you and know you can work this out – what solutions have you thought about already?”


What sort of responses would work for you?

The third step is –

Once you have thought of a phrase that feels comfortable enough for you to say, that will help create the delay that you need. Practise it over and over again in your mind. Or out loud in the car. What this does is create a new neural pathway in your brain to have the phrase at hand automatically when you next need it. The practising creates a pathway in your thinking for a more likely successful outcome. In essence it can become an automatic response at the tip of your tongue when you need it.

This new boundary will help to keep you on track in your world and not be constantly pulled into other peoples orbits. When your phrase is said with good intention, it will usually be received respectfully and build the respect in the relationship. This is also linked with confidence, self-esteem and the obvious that if the relationship does break down due to you being more assertive and looking after yourself, then it probably was a relationship that you could afford to lose. Hope the practice goes well.

Best wishes Dee



Submit a Comment

More news & updates

How to beat Imposter Syndrome

It can be challenging beating Imposter Syndrome, but the good news is that it can be done. By creating more self-awareness and by being committed to change, it is possible to develop yourself away from this disempowering phenomenon.

Don’t Give Up!

Don’t Give Up There are times, especially in the current climate when you might feel the overwhelming urge to give up. Many people I talk to are saying things like “I am sooo fed up of constantly struggling just to make money”. “I am exhausted of the constant battle...