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This page abstract: There are ways to learn how to say an assertive NO. A simple and direct "NO, I am not able to help you with that" is the best solution. If you add an explanation it should be kept simple.

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Learn to Say NO!

Intelligent natural language question-answering in the area of psychology and psychiatry. Ask a simple question  Local help Info

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Written by: Martin Winkler

First version: 22 Jul 2008. Latest revision: 29 Apr 2012.
How do I learn to say "NO"? Tell me more about learning to say NO! Do you recommend confidence-assertiveness training?


Learning to say NO

Saying NO can be very difficult. People with low self-esteem very often have a lack of assertiveness and think they have to meet the expectations of everyone. It is very hard for them to set limits with others. They sometimes feel ashamed or guilty if they would say NO. But to do things against your will and possibilities will end up in feeling used and resentful.

A simple and direct "NO, I am not able to help you with that" is the best solution. If you want to (have to) give an explanation you should keep it simple:"NO, I have already made an another appointment for this time" or "NO, sorry. I am afraid I have to decline because I have no spare time."

Other ways of saying NO:

  • I can´t do this right now.
  • NO, thanks. Not this time. Thank you for asking.
  • Sorry, but NO.
  • Please accept that I cannot come.
  • I´d rather not.
To say an assertive NO you should:
  • Start the sentence with the word NO
  • Shake your head and use nonverbal assertiveness to underline your NO. Your voice should be clear and direct. Keep eye contact.
If someone makes a request it is fair to ask for time to think it over. The decision should be up to you, but sometimes it is difficult to say NO right now. You can try to use an empathic NO, if you would have helped under different circumstances:

"Sorry, no. I would have kept your cat next weekend. But my husband and I will be off for visit. I know it will be hard to find someone to take care off the cat. I will try to help you next time." Remember : Saying NO is a very honourable response. You have the right to say "No"!

Disclaimer: The documents contained in this web site are presented for information purposes only. The material is in no way intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified psychiatrist or psychotherapist. It can not and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment. If you find anything wrong, please notify us at .
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