How to stop being a wimp and learn to say “no”

If you sometimes regret agreeing to help someone or suspect that others are exploiting your kindness, it means that you simply do not know how to say “no” when it is necessary. Learning how to do this is very important, otherwise, you will continue to feel regret for getting involved in things you shouldn’t have and didn’t want to, and putting other people’s interests before your own.

Why is it so hard to say the word?

The main reason for not being able to say no is one over-dependence on the opinions of others. A no-holds-barred person always expects approval from the person he or she is helping. And for every one of them, there is inevitably a manipulator who understands that the inability to refuse can be exploited, and regularly does so.

Manipulator causes in you a feeling of guilt for the refusal, which leads to the following thoughts: “If I say no”, he will be offended, but he would have helped in my place, I guess I am a bad person, I do not want to be like that, I must help!

But after all, by saying no, you are not harming; you are just prioritizing. And it is normal to care foremost about your goals. So the first step to learning to say no is realizing that saying no won’t, in most cases, ruin your opinion of yourself.

Of course, there are situations when your help is needed: you must learn to identify them. If without your intervention the person is in trouble – it’s one thing. If they’re just looking for someone to do their dirty work for them, that’s another.

The next time you do someone else’s request, just ask yourself: are you angry? If the answer is yes, that’s a sure sign that you should have refused, but you showed passivity. Then ask a second question – will there be a payoff? Constantly sharing something to your detriment and getting nothing in return is not very profitable. If you do, it’s worth saying no.

How to do it

Now it should be clearer when to say “no.” Except it’s still hard to do – to make it easier, learn.

Do not be ashamed

First, remember that there is nothing bad in rejection: refusing, you do not show callousness and unreliability. You have every right to do so. For those who never refuse, people are not grateful at all: helping them becomes a habit and practically becomes an obligation.

Analyze the past

Next, make a list of the last times you helped someone. Recall how much time, money, and effort it took. Write what you could have done for yourself instead, so it’s clearer what you’ve lost by helping others. Read it again, feel sorry for yourself, and then think about what rejection would have been like in most, if not all, of these cases. Probably nothing significant.

Observe yourself

After these procedures, you will be better prepared to say “no”, so it’s time to practice. You should start with a small: Observe yourself, note when you agree for nothing, and even with strangers – it is easier to refuse them. Set a goal – to say “no” at least once a day. Then two or three times will be a good practice.

What to say instead of “no”

At first, rejection will be hard for you. Nothing is surprising about this. Here are a few suggestions to sweeten the pill of rejection.

Offer advice

Good advice is already helping. Explain why you can’t help at the moment, and try to think of an alternative solution to the problem of your companion, advise him of a specialist you know, or search for a discussion of a similar problem on the Internet. That way, you’re not looked down upon as a callous individual and you don’t have to carry the burden of responsibility.


Emphasize that it feels good – out of all the options the person chose you (even if you don’t feel that way), that you are passionate about his project, or sympathetic to his situation, but… now, alas, there is no way.

Give me the facts

Show that you, too, are in a difficult situation, and it’s not up to you, so you can’t spare a minute. If rejection still seems too tough for you, promise that as soon as you unload your schedule.

Cite negative experiences

Explain that you’ve faced a similar problem before and your actions have only made things worse. Minus – you risk being labeled a profane. On the plus side, you are unlikely to be approached again with the same request.

These tips may help at first, but for a request from someone you don’t like, there’s still nothing like a simple terse “no” – with no explanation.


It may not work right away – that’s okay. If you still can’t say no, but inside you feel you don’t want to agree, take time to think about it. Think about all the disadvantages of agreeing – perhaps it will give you the strength to refuse.

Do it firmly and confidently. You can row the decision, but without long excuses, they will only give away your hesitation. And: you must say the word “no”, it’s a common mistake – to refuse, trying to do without it.

No, no, and no again – do not leave ambiguities. Maybe it was a word that gave you bad associations before – you have to learn to be happy when you say it. Think of all the good it has done you. But not saying no doesn’t cancel our participation: you are always.

However, rejection does not cancel participation: you can always show sympathy, give advice or offer to turn to someone else: “I can’t do what you’re asking, but I can help with advice…”.

Refusal should be polite, but firm – remember that you always have time to change your mind, but if you agree, you make a commitment, and to abandon them will be difficult. We also suggest that you read the material on how to improve self-esteem, because in a person with healthy self-esteem, it is difficult to cause guilt on the spot.

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