4 ways to say “No” without people hating you

“You’re a meanie, Mom.”

My youngest son said it without any hatred or anger in his voice. He just said it like he was reporting the weather. Like it was a fact that everyone knew.

He had wanted to play a game on my phone and I said no. He had wanted to stop at Sonic and get a drink and I said no. He wanted to go to the store to buy Halloween decorations and I said no. From his point of view, I can actually see why he would think I was a meanie. 

Nobody likes to hear no, right? Especially a five year old. But I had legitimate reasons for saying no to all his requests. He had already played on my phone that morning, we didn’t have time to run to the store on that day and I wasn’t in the mood to go to Sonic at the exact moment (I’d already had more than enough Diet Dr. Pepper that day. I do have my limits, people). But it still hurt a little. 

Saying no to your child is one thing, and saying no to adults is a whole different thing, right? Or is it? 

We want to make it more complicated. The “but they might think I’m a meanie” factor can have a lot more weight. So I’m going to give you some tips for saying No, to adults, and hopefully not get called a meanie. Sound good?  

  1. Say yes when you can

This requires some introspection. Find your line. It’s going to be different than my line, so look and see what you can and what you can’t do. And make a point of saying yes when you can. This will make the No, when it comes, have a little more gentleness to it. 

The idea is that your friend will know that you are usually willing to drive the carpool, because you normally say yes. And when you say no, she will likely assume that you have a good reason and give you the benefit of the doubt. 

  1. Don’t lie

We’ve all been in a situation where you’ve said yes to some request, but are actually feeling annoyed and resentful because it will throw everything off in your plan. Then you get mad and grumpy at your kids and spouse because you don’t have time to show up for them in the way you want, because of this stupid obligation. Sound familiar? 

See, the problem is, when you say yes to a request when you really can’t show up 100%, you are lying. The person making the request is wanting you at your best, and you can’t give your best because you are rolling around in resentment. So don’t lie. Honesty is best, even if it is a little uncomfortable. You allowing yourself to feel a little bit uncomfortable now in order to avoid a lot of uncomfortable for you and everyone around you later. Strive for honesty and authenticity.

Showing up in your relationships with consistent honesty builds a foundation of trust. 

And when someone trusts you, even if they do n’t like what you are saying, they will likely give you the benefit of the doubt. They will assume that you are saying no for a good reason. See reason #1. 

Being honest when you say yes, and be honest when you can’t. Showing up in authenticity will grow the relationship into a deeper and more trusted place. And seriously, how doesn’t want more trust in their lives? 

  1. Don’t take it personally, even if they do

Now all that being said, we can’t control how other people are going to react to anything that we do. Your sis-in-law may take it personally that you said no to helping her with her child’s birthday party. She has that choice.

But you also have a choice. You can show up with honesty and integrity and say no. She can say no, and you can choose to let her without making it mean anything about you. 

She can be mad at you, and it doesn’t mean anything about you. All it means, is that she is disappointed. The end. 

Our brains want to tell us that if someone is disappointed because of something that we said or did, then it must mean that there is something wrong with us or what we said or did. Thank you, brain, but I’m not going to buy into that. 

All it means is that you were honest and it doesn’t fit with their ideas of how it should be. Don’t make it mean any more than that. 

  1. Say “I Love You” and mean it

This one helps especially well with my husband. There are times when I need to tell him no, and I’m sure there are times when you need to tell your spouse no too.  

Our home has an office space where I do most of my work as a life coach. I have a desk that I love and have it organized exactly the way that I like. This is my primary workspace. Eric has an office that he goes to everyday as his primary workspace. 

Eric’s job is flexible and sometimes, he chooses to work from home. I love it when he does and it feels like a treat to have him home all day, even if he is working for a lot of that time. 

So sometimes we run into a problem where we both want to use the desk and the office to work. Sometimes, I am totally okay with him working on the desk and I will work in the chair in the same room. No big deal. But sometimes I really need to use the desk. This is how the conversation usually goes. 

Eric- Hey do you mind if I use the desk today?

Me- I love you and I love that you are home today, and no, I really need the desk today. 

Now Eric usually responds in one of two ways. He says “Ok, I’ll work at the table” or “Ok, I’ll just go into the office then.” 

In either situation, I’m ok and he’s ok. It doesn’t mean anything about him or me or our relationship. It isn’t personal. I just need the desk to do all my work. That’s it. It doesn’t mean that I am choosing my own comfort over his or that I love my work and the desk more than I love him. It’s just math. We both have needs and we figure out a way for both of our needs to be met.  

So go out into this beautiful world and say no. Say yes if you can, and if you can’t say I love you and don’t take it personally if they don’t react the way you want to. You will feel so much better. And you will be showing up with integrity and honesty which is the best feeling of all.