Have you ever agreed to something which has led to a scenario that you haven’t enjoyed, or you’ve been on the end of an outcome you wish you hadn’t? then there’s a strong chance that you need to learn how to say no.

YOLO and FOMO have caught on for us millennials, as most of the time, agreeing to something is the ‘easier route out’.

“Well okay, I don’t want to miss out” or “oh fine, I may as well” are phrases that regularly mask the real feeling towards something.

I know this feeling as well as anyone. The feeling of going along with something for the sake of it. More often than not, it would be for below-average nights out or getting involved with a project that doesn’t interest me. The resulting hangover, whether alcohol-related or being mentally drained for doing something you didn’t want to, leaves you out of sync in life.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve said “I’m having one beer as I’ve got things to do tomorrow”, then carry on throwing pints down my throat all night until I lose most of the next day. The anger, guilt and ‘beer fear’ knocked me (and my mental health), and it was because I hadn’t learnt self-control. 

It’s all about taking responsibility. I knew what I wanted to achieve and I know what I wanted to do with my time. No-one held a gun to my head and forced me to drink.

As soon as you let go of the excuses, and claim responsibility, you’ll begin to learn how to say no.


“But shouldn’t I be more ‘positive’ and say yes?”

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Photo by Kirill Vasilev on Unsplash

Now, yes, I have seen Yes Man, the Jim Carey film that promotes saying “yes” to life.

As someone who has lived, worked and travelled around the globe, I’m someone who always grabs hold of life. But the more I’ve learnt, the more I’ve realised it’s about balance. Balance in life, emotions and also your decisions, such as your ‘yes’ or ’no’s.

It’s important to understand what you want and to set the relevant boundaries to respect it. When you do, you’ll find both your mental and physical health will improve.

Saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re shutting off, being a bad person or a rubbish friend. Actually the opposite. If you’re open, honest and know what you want, then you’re a good friend. There’s no reading between the lines, or friends having to act around you.

You are who you are, and that’s something true friends can respect.


Why it’s important to learn how to say no

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To improve your mental, physical and spiritual health

Putting yourself out there when you don’t want to can affect you in many ways.

Depending on your circle, it can take different forms. Peer pressure can lead to physical health issues, such as drink and drugs causing hangovers and comedowns. It could be that you’re talked into doing something you hate to fit in, such as gossiping and in turn that affects your mental health. Or, you may feel completely “peopled out”, and your energy needs a break from others. 

Once you learn how to say no, you can begin to recharge your health in each of these areas.


Not all offers are in your best interests

Don’t think every time someone asks you to do something, it’s in your best interests. 

There are always times where people just need someone to do something with, for their own reasons and that’s being a bad friend. Your wants and needs go out the window so they can get what they want from you being there. 

Take your time to see if your feelings are being considered.


You reclaim your time as yours, not others

When you agree to things you don’t want to do, you’re handing over your time to someone else. 

They’re then using it as they see fit, and that’s not in your best interests. 

Learn how to say no, and take control of the clock.


You have more time for things that you love

I know that my Saturdays are well-spent when I’m being productive, or out and about and experiencing the world. 

Not being a hungover mess, slobbing out and watching 12 hours of TV. Once you learn how to say no, you free up time to do the things that you want to do, and life becomes more fun as a result. 

Why would you live your life doing things you don’t want to do when you could spend it enjoying the things you do?


Learn to be you without the influence of others

When you begin to walk your own path instead of someone else’s, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. 

What do you like or dislike? Do you have a hobby you haven’t tried or a sport you want to take up? Maybe you’ve learnt you’re not as negative or gossipy when not around people, or you’ve followed a different spiritual content. 

Allow yourself the space to find out.


Tips to learn how to say no

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Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash
  • Be firm and direct with your response – No means no. “Maybe”, “possibly” and “I’ll think about it” does not.


  • Hold firm against the pushback that’ll follow – You’ll get the predictable “Oh come on, it’ll be fun”, or the various twists on the guilt card/puppy dog eyes approach. Stick with what you want, you’ll thank yourself for it in the long run.


  • Don’t lie about your reasons, nor should you apologise – Be honest; you don’t want to do it. Real ones will respect that. But there’s no need to apologise, you know what you want and that doesn’t warrant an apology. Don’t water down how you feel.


  • You can still be polite – You don’t need a one-word ‘no’. You can thank them and keep things okay. Saying no and being polite are not mutually exclusive, they can go together.


Balance in every aspect of life is so important.

Sure, learn to say ‘no’, to free yourself up for the things that matter. But this isn’t about becoming a recluse and closing yourself off to life. It’s still vital to explore, experience and enjoy what this planet has to offer. Yet make sure what you explore, experience and enjoy is what you want and not others.

When you do, life will seem much, much rosier as a result.


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