How To Say No (And Still Be A Nice Person)

If you're a people-pleaser or suffer from FOMO, this might be the hardest thing you ever do.


Written By: Katie Tetz

Stop triple booking yourself, your sanity depends on it.

First, know that you are a nice person.
Second, know that saying ‘No’ is a skill that takes most people a long time to master.

We are a generation of go-getters, encouraging each other to say a big, excited ʻYES!ʼ to the things that come our way. Job opportunities, coffee dates, cocktail dates, romantic dates, weekend getaways, brunches … the list goes on.

We live in an ever growing city where thereʼs always a new restaurant or shop popping up. The number of invites we receive isnʼt going to die down anytime soon, and thatʼs a good thing.

But thereʼs a catch. You physically canʼt say yes to everything and everyone. If you do, you risk burning yourself out, and when you do attend all of those events and parties, youʼll likely develop a chip on your shoulder, or at the very least not enjoy them as much as youʼd like to. Youʼre human; youʼre going to get tired. Not to mention the impact that all of these outings have on your wallet.

I used to vow to give myself one day during the week where I didnʼt make any plans. Not even a date with the gym. I wanted to leave room for spontaneity and relaxation. But by Monday afternoon, without fail, my day planner would be jam packed with coffee dates, yoga dates, meetings, and work.

FOMO was partially to blame. I suffered from a severe case of Fear-Of-Missing-Out. Being single did not help. What if tonight is the night I meet my soul mate? I have to go out! 

What a load of shit. Hereʼs a freeing thought that an older and wiser friend said to me over the phone late one night after an unfulfilling night of partying, “Relax, you cannot miss what is intended for you.”

From the ages of 23 to 27, I think I said ʻNoʼ to going out twice. Once, I was so sick I couldnʼt leave my apartment, and the other time was because I wasnʼt in the province.

For a while it was a lot of fun. Things got especially interesting when I applied this ʻSay Yesʼ principle to dating. A previous manager gave my old single-self this advice, “Give everyone the old college try!”

Again this was fun, until I realized how much of my precious time was being spent in situations that when I got really honest with myself, I was not truly enjoying.  After a few too many nights walking in my door and saying to my roommate, ʻWell, that was a waste of time,’ I started reconsidering my ʻYes.’

I receive Danielle Laporteʼs ʻTruth Bombʼ emails in my inbox once a week. I end up saving 90 per cent of them in my “inspiration” folder or forwarding them on to my best friends because theyʼre just so damn good.

A few weeks ago I conveniently received one about saying ʻNo’.
It starts by getting you to ponder, “Imagine being excited by EVERYTHING that youʼre up to.” 

That sounds nice right?

Hereʼs the part that really got my stationary-loving hearts attention: “Imagine looking at your day planner and thinking, ʻMy life is so obviously great. OBVIOUSLY.ʼ Imagine feeling incredibly free and empowered. You want that, right? Then hereʼs the password to all that spaciousness and power— One word: No.” 

How you'll start to feel when 'No' becomes a part of your vocabulary.  How you’ll start to feel when ‘No’ becomes a part of your vocabulary.

Because sheʼs brilliant, she knows what weʼre all thinking as soon as we read those words, so she continues, “I know youʼre worried about letting people down, I know you donʼt want to look like a bitch, I know you donʼt want to miss out on any opportunities. I know you want to do the right thing…The right thing when youʼre feeling unexcited, compromised, or over-obligated is, No, Thank You...On the other side of No, Thanks are all things youʼre dying to say YES to.” 

I had to admit to myself that more often than not, feelings of over-obligation and exhaustion were more prevalent than an excited ʻYay I canʼt wait!ʼ In saying yes to everything, my yes packed no punch.

Could ʻNoʼ really be the answer?

This may cause all of us people pleasers a lot of anxiety. But then again people pleasing never amounted to much anyways, did it?

Oprah Winfrey wrote a tiny little gem of a book called ʻWhat I Know For Sureʼ and in it, talks about suffering from ʻthe disease to pleaseʼ until she was in her forties. And this from someone who has positively impacted millions of people.

“I know for sure that I had to first get clear about who I was before I could beat the disease to please. When I accepted that I was a decent, kind, and giving person — whether I said yes or no — I no longer had anything to prove.” 

Now thatʼs a profound thought: That you are still a kind person, whether or not you say yes or no. It takes a confident person to stand strong in his or her ʻNoʼ, and it also takes a strong knowing of what you do want to say yes to.

On a small scale, perhaps saying ʻNo, Thank you,ʼ to girls night might momentarily offend someone. But think of all those times when youʼve said yes, and then canceled last minute. Or worse, made up a little (big) white lie about why you could no longer attend, what if you simply said ʻNoʼ in the first place?

It would certainly take away the anxiety of realizing youʼve once again triple booked yourself; it would also take away a lot of those little white Iʼm-not-feeling-well lies. On a larger scale, imagine letting go of the need to prove something to everyone? Thatʼs freedom of a whole different kind.

As Danielle Laporte points out, there would be more free time to fill up with the things that actually feed our souls. Imagine saving room to put those things in your day planner, whatever they may be. Say no so that you can have a Saturday like this:

  • Sleep in
  • Bake cookies
  • Read Vogue
  • Go for a walk
  • Call best friend
  • Drink a nice glass (bottle) of wine
  • See where the night takes you

Just because you say ʻNo, thank youʼ or ʻNo, this week isnʼt good for me,ʼ doesnʼt make you a horrible person who burns bridges. More likely, it makes you a person whose ʻYesʼ packs a whole lot of excitement and enthusiasm.

Whether youʼre a people pleaser or suffer from FOMO, I dare you to take Danielle and Oprahʼs advice and try it: Say ʻNoʼ and see what happens.

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