No, I cannot, I don’t want to, I’m too busy, that is asking too much of me. For some people, the first sentence of this article is stressful, triggering and even offensively aggressive. But saying no does not make you a bad person, nor does it mean you can’t still have a good relationship with the idea or person you’re saying no to. 

Saying no is one of the hardest, but most important skills that one can learn.  Although it can oftentimes seem impossible or unfair, having the ability to stand up for yourself and say no is essential to social life. These situations can range anywhere from saying no to taking on more work or extracurriculars, to saying no in interpersonal relationships. No matter what you’re saying no to, the following steps can help you stand your ground. 

Understand that saying no does not make you “mean” 

One of my least favorite things to hear is when people say yes because they don’t want to be mean or rude. Saying no means that you’re willing to stand up for yourself and not just go along with whatever others tell you to do. Sometimes you have to reject people and ideas. Sometimes you are going to have to just say no. 

Remember declining can be relaxing and relieving 

To have lingering thoughts on whether or not you’ll be able to say no can be exhausting and stressful. Don’t hold onto the stress of being worried about saying no or feel like you can’t escape it. Just say no, and let it go. Think about how you’ll feel when you don’t have to think about the rejection anymore. 

Know that it’s more respectful than saying yes without meaning it

When you don’t say no, and you know you need and want to, you can waste people’s time, overbook yourself and create more stress in your life than needed. By not saying no, you lead someone on and make them think that you’re totally on board with whatever it is they asked you. It is more respectful to simply say no than to agree to something you either don’t want to or can’t do. 

Practice a few times beforehand

Rehearse your rejection more than once before actually doing it. Not only will this help you feel more calm during the actual rejection, but practicing can also help the discussion go smoother, as you’re more prepared than you would’ve been. Go over it with a friend and say no to yourself in the mirror. In whatever way you feel comfortable, practicing saying no will make it easier to do when it’s official.

Stand your ground

Once you’ve said no, you need to stick to it. Don’t roll over the moment someone asks you to reconsider. One of the worst things you can do after saying no is to take it back when you don’t want to. Let no, mean no. And don’t let yourself feel bad for not budging.