top of page

The art of saying NO

10 ways to explore, reflect on and try out in order to define your confident nos ❌ and create the space for your soul yes-es 🧡✅.

I so often see people feel overwhelmed, overworked, and afraid of burnout. Instead of keep trying to find solutions for time management, wanting to be better organized, or ultimately changing jobs/relationships, focus on setting boundaries, and mastering saying nos.

“Really successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffett

Saying No

By Campbell McGrath

No sir, absolutely not, sorry, but no. Not sorry, actually—just no. Keep it simple, plain vanilla: nope. Not happening. Big en, big oh.

No way, no how. Negative, nuh-uh, ixnay, nyet. No no, no no. No-no-no-no-no-no-no.

Not likely, not likely. Maybe, but I doubt it. Possibly, conceivably, in theory. Uh-huh, mm-hmm . . .

Well, yeah, sure, O.K., why not, oh definitely, yes, wow, I mean anything, anything at all, when can we begin?


1. Tolerations

What are you merely tolerating in your life?

Tolerations are things in your daily life that drain your energy.

  • What are you tolerating?

  • What’s boring you?

  • What do you wish you hadn’t once said yes to?

  • What are your “Shoulds” and “In Order To’s”? (Shoulds are the things you say yes to, because of societal pressure, fear or lack of taking responsibility. In Order To’s are things you said yes to, but only as a stepping stone to get what you really want. If you want a rapid way to create what you really, really want, stop saying yes to these).

👉 List 50 things

2. Close open loops

Open loops are any commitments you made to yourself or someone else. They can go back to years in your life. The friend from whom you borrowed a book, never responded to that whatsapp message, or borrowed some money but never returned. The desire to touch your legs in a forward fold that you never actually did anything about. The unkept promise to your partner to wash those down jackets.

Check even seemingly unnecessarily small items. Even tiny open loops are draining you of energy.

👉 List 50 things

3. How are your nos and yeses?

👉 Journal about yes and no.

Set a timer for 5 min and journal freely about them. Do it with pen and paper, it has a different working in your mind when you return to the analog way.

Write Yes to the top of the page and allow yourself to write whatever comes. Once complete, read it out loud to yourself. Repeat it with the no. What did you learn about your yes and no?

👉 How does your body say yes and no?

Stand in the middle of the room or wherever you have space for this practice. Take some fresh breaths. Imagine saying yes. What movement would describe your yes? Move your body, hand, legs, head, whatever you feel like moving while expressing your yes. What do you notice? Is it a strong or a shy movement? Is it easy to find what your yes looks like? Does it look defensive, open or uncertain?

Repeat it with the no.

👉 What does your yes and no sound like?

Similarly to the previous practice, use your voice to express your yes and no. Start with yes. Say it out loud. What is your tone when saying yes? How confident your voice is? How do you want it to sound? Experiment with it.

Repeat it with the no.

4. Explore your patterns and needs

👉 What might be the reasons behind your current behaviour patterns?

Some ideas:

  • People pleasing. Trying to fit in. You might want to be accepted and liked.

  • Socialisation and upbringing. This is what you learned as a child. Check-in with yourself: What did you learn about setting boundaries and saying no as a child? What happened when you said no?

  • Fear. What if I don’t do it?

  • Automation. This is what you got used to.

  • Lack of awareness. You notice it late that there was an actual choice for saying no/yes. (Don’t be too hard on yourself, it happens to most of us. We’re humans! 🙃 )

👉 Add yours:

👉 Try to access your needs behind these reasons. If helpful, use the inventory of needs for this exercise.

👉 In what other ways can you satisfy these needs of yours? What request can you make to create yourself more choices? Where can you ask for help?

5. Choose your Soul YESes

What is so important to you that it becomes easy to be a no to anything else? (Your relationship, settling in, your health, your friends, your happiness).

6. Consider the price of saying YES, tomorrow

If you say yes now, imagine the price you’ll be paying in a week, a month, or 6 months. When you actually have to deliver on what you’ve promised. What does it feel like? If you’re willing to go with them:

👉 What routines, systems, and commitments do you need to establish to follow it through?

7. NO is a complete sentence

No explanation needed. No apology needed. No, thank you. No. That’s it.

Yet, you can look for more elaborate ways saying no, but is it really ‘unfortunate’ that you won’t attend that event? Is it really true that you don’t have time?

If I want to add something, I usually say: I want to respect my capacity/values/other commitments/priorities and so it’s a no. Thank you.

👉 Give yourself permission to simply say no, when it feels like a no.

8. Saying no to something means saying YES to yourself

Think about prioritizing yourself and saying no as an act of self-care and self-love.

👉 How does it change things for you? What comes up for you when reframing saying no this way?

9. Say a gracious NO.

“Thank you for your request and I’m graciously saying no.”

This is a great way of saying no politely. It’s usually enough on its own. Sometimes if you try to explain too much, it comes from your own lack of self-esteem or sense of guilt, and your explanation makes things cloudy.

If you want to say a little more, refer to your Soul Yes: “I’m saying a gracious no to your request, as I’m putting all my attention on two things, at this time: my health and my x responsibility.”

10. Say a fast no.

When you know you’re a no, don’t let your discomfort leave people hanging. Say it s soon as you know it (and encourage yourself to make a decision when you feel hesitant).


After doing all these practices, how confident do you feel to say NO on a scale from 1 to 10? I’ll leave you with this poem by Jassimmrat Kaur for some additional superfood for thought. Let’s make sincerity the new cool!

Saying ‘No’: A Slam Poem

“No”- 2 letters, 1 syllable, a complete answer needless of an explanation. It’s a full statement, despite the resentment. It’s a sentiment you must confess, even if it causes a mess. It’s an emotion we are told to suppress, A thought from which we should digress. Because we are taught to say “yes”, Yes, I will do it, Yes, you can, Yes, I don’t mind, Yet sometimes people have not any clue when they cross the line. Saying yes, agreeing to every command, Have we forgotten that we’re not here to fulfil society’s endless demands? Race, religion, and nationality Age, ability, and sexuality There is no one size fits all strategy, Language, mannerisms, accents, style Why do we make women go the extra mile? Why are women associated with tranquillity? These limitations are no less than a tragedy, We should not have to empower a woman’s speaking ability, Because expression and speech are everyone’s rights. Apparently, it’s ‘do as we say’ and not ‘as we do’, And, it seems as though we don’t bother to take this route. Most of us are forced to keep silent. Unable to feel, unable to speak Because we’ve been taught what to think Beaten down by the rod of self-righteousness Never ceasing, always suppressing. So let me tell you when you ignore consent, For your own content, Disregarding the lament, Only to torment, you are a fool. Breaking the rules to make yourself look smart and cruel, “I go to a good school and have a big pool” doesn’t mean that you need to be the fuel to the duel between being amused and being right. You’ll win no jewel in this fight, So can we please make sincerity the new cool? Let’s understand that when someone says “no”, we step back. When someone says “no”, we stop. When someone says “no”, they will not follow it up with an IB 10 marker explanation to “justify” their damn answer. And when someone says “no”, we hear it as they mean to say it, Don’t think that every time someone says “no”, It’s while twisting their hair in their hands, With a tan from the sun and the sand, And with a playful girl laugh that no one can stand. Because let me tell you, “I thought they didn’t mean it” is an incompetent excuse, The power you hold you must misuse, But the truth is that not everyone you meet is trying to get wooed. We can feel it, But can we truly ever express it? Hearts are failing, resolve is crumbling, So let’s understand that “no” is a whole word, Stop making it sound so absurd, Every single human has the right to be heard. Ask yourself, being quiet, how long does it last? It’s a disease that’s catching up fast. It won’t be long before everybody gets it, But as long as I live to fight for my voice, And fight for my respect towards yours, Perhaps we can delay the inevitable a little while longer?


Apart from the mentioned sources, this article is using resources and ideas from Rich Litvin’s blog and live programs I attended, Bethany Webster’s book Discovering the Inner Mother, Ann Davidman’s book Motherhood: Is it for Me?, Dancing Freedom resources, as well as my own personal resources and experience.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my newsletter to receive it in your inbox!


bottom of page