Learning How and When to Say No

(Even to a Teacher!)

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Learning to say no to people is one of the best things you can do for yourself, yet many people find it extremely difficult. Why? Because they want to be liked. The ironic thing is, people will like you better and respect you more if you say no when it's appropriate!

Why Say No

1. People will respect you. People who say yes to everything in an attempt to be liked are quickly recognized as pushovers. When you say no to someone you are letting them know that you have boundaries. You are showing that you respect yourself--and that is how you gain respect from others.

2. People will actually see you as more dependable. When you say yes only when you have the time and true ability to do a great job, then you'll gain a reputation for being dependable. If you say yes to everything, you're bound to do a bad job at everything.

3. When you're selective with your tasks, you'll sharpen your natural strengths. If you concentrate on the things you're good at, you'll be able to improve on your natural talents. For example, if you're a great writer but you're not so great as an artist, you may volunteer to write speeches but you shouldn't sign up to make the posters for your club. Concentrate on your strength and build your skills (and your experience) for college.

4. Your life will be less stressful. You may be tempted to say yes to people in order to please them. In the long run, you're only hurting yourself and others when you do this. You stress yourself out by overloading yourself, and you experience increased stress when you realize you're bound to let them down.

When to Say No

First let's point out the obvious: Do your homework.

You should never say no to a teacher, friend, or family member who is merely asking you to live up to your responsibilities. It's not okay to say no to a class assignment, just because you don't feel like doing it for some reason. This is not an exercise in cockiness.

It is OK to say no when somebody is asking you to step outside your true responsibilities and outside your comfort zone to take on a task that is dangerous or one that will overload you and affect your academic work and your reputation.

For example:

  • If a teacher suggests that you become the president of a club that he or she is advising, but your schedule is already over-packed.
  • If a popular athlete asks you to help with his/her homework and you don't have time.
  • If anybody asks you to do their homework for them.
  • If anybody asks you to give them information that was on a test (if they have a later class with the same teacher).

It can be very difficult to say no to somebody whom you really respect, but you'll find that you actually gain respect from them when you show enough courage to say no.

How to Say No

We say yes to people because it's easy. Learning to say no is like learning anything: it seems really scary at first, but it's so rewarding when you get the hang of it!

The trick to saying no is doing it firmly without sounding rude. You must avoid being wishy-washy. Here are some lines you can practice:

  • If a teacher asks you to take on more responsibility than you need: Thank you for thinking of me, but I will have to say no. I'm just over-scheduled at this time.
  • If a teacher asks you to do something you don't feel comfortable with: This sounds like it would be a great opportunity for somebody, but it's not right for me.
  • If somebody wants you to cheat: Sorry, I don't share my homework. That would get us both in trouble.
  • If somebody tries to push work off on you: I just don't have the time to do a good job at that right now.
  • If somebody tries to overload you with a task: I can't do that because I have an assignment due tomorrow.
  • If somebody tries to unload a problem on you: I understand your situation, but I don't have an answer for you.

When You Have to Say Yes

There will be times when you want to say no but you can’t. If you're working on a group project, you have to take on some of the work, but you don't want to volunteer for everything. When you have to say yes, you can do it with firm conditions.

A conditional "yes" may be necessary if you know you should do something but you also know you don't have all the time or resources. An example of a conditional yes is: "Yes, I'll make the posters for the club, but I won't pay for all the supplies."

Saying no is all about gaining respect. Gain respect for yourself by saying no when it's necessary. Gain the respect of others by saying no in a polite way.

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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "Learning How and When to Say No." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/how-to-say-no-1857579. Fleming, Grace. (2023, April 5). Learning How and When to Say No. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-say-no-1857579 Fleming, Grace. "Learning How and When to Say No." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-say-no-1857579 (accessed June 3, 2023).