10 Reasons Saying No Can Increase Your Happiness

During one of my talks about entrepreneurship and moving away from corporate life when I was speaking to a group of women with corporate jobs, one topic brought a unanimous nodding in the room. I was surprised to see this strong reaction on a straight-forward and simple point on reasons to say no and to say it so well that it comes across as good as a yes!

After the talk, I stayed to talk to some of these women. One of them was a busy doctor, with kids and all the usual responsibilities. She was going to school to get her MBA and on top of this, she could not bring herself to say no to the various volunteer efforts her friends and community asked her to do.


I was shaking my head just hearing this. “As busy as you are, you have every right to say no!”, I reminded her as though it wasn’t obvious enough to her already.

Then I realized that’s not the problem at all. She knows she needs to say no. She is a smart woman as are the rest of us. She knows she is busier than she needs to be and continuing on her already crazy schedule long-term would be beyond a challenge so why complicate life even more?

The real problem is that while saying no would be a great idea, it is scary and nerve-wracking to actually say no.

How could she actually go through with saying no if she cares about her friends and family, she asked me?

How could she turn down their requests and not hurt their feelings or damage the bond of their relationship?

Is it even possible to do both – to say no professionally and sincerely and to make it sound good, even desirable?

She reminded me of my old self who struggled so much with saying no and doing it right.

It’s not easy to do the things you know you should do because it’s not enough to know that you need to do something. You are smart enough to know the right thing but the resistance and anxiety of going through with it get in the way when it’s not the normal thing people do.

The normal thing is to say yes to every request and to be ‘nice’ to our families, friends and communities, no matter what the yes costs us.

Those times that you can’t say yes because there is no way you can help out, you may say “Let me think about it!” which is worse, because you raise false hope for the other person and struggle even longer with the indecision.

Later, you either force yourself to say yes to avoid saying the no you should have said in the first place or else ignore the request and the person altogether, pretending you forgot about it.

What if saying no was far better than saying yes for you and for them both?

Before you raise your hand and volunteer to do something that you have no time or energy to do, read the 10 ways saying no can increase your happiness without making you selfish or unkind.

10 Reasons Saying No Can Increase Your Happiness

1. You save your health and sanity.
Plain and simple: saying yes to everything will rob you first of your health and well-being, and drive you a little crazy. Not worth it. It does not help anyone.

2. You nurture yourself first so you can then nurture the world.
You are not being selfish. That means acting out only in a self-serving way. You are being nurturing to observe and recognize your own needs so that you can put out your best work in the world. That’s the opposite of self-serving, if you ask me.

3. You earn the respect of the other person.
By saying no with your honesty and kindness, you earn respect, which strengthens your relationship, whereas saying a half-hearted yes or ignoring the request loses respect and credibility.

4. You gain mutual trust.
It is easy to trust you when you speak your mind and your heart. Sometimes that’s a yes, sometimes that’s a no. When others can trust you, they will feel closer to you and you will be at ease to be yourself and expect no less of them in return when you put out your own requests.

5. You develop a reputation for being an honest straight-shooter.
Would you not want to work and be with someone who did not beat around the bushes? Would you not love to have a true friend by your side that was honest and reliable and gave you answers to your questions in this spirit? I know I do.

6. You show signs of leadership.
It is not easy to say yes and do it in such a way that it sounds good, but you are a leader of your own life and your actions, and leadership means making the best decisions at each moment given the resources and time and money available to you. So do that and no less.

7. You express true consideration. There’s nothing fake about you.
Fake is the least attractive characteristic trait for a friend, a business partner or a neighbor. Instead, be real. When you show consideration not just for them but also for yourself, you become truly caring.

8. You offer alternatives that they may not have considered. “I can’t do this but let me suggest …”
Always think about ways you can be helpful when you have to say no. Always suggest something else they could do, and be resourceful. This counts big in their eyes.

9. You gain happiness and inner peace.
No more stress from doing what you don’t want to do. No more giving up your inner peace to do some outer work that does not serve you or them. Just happiness for doing the right thing every single time. Some are a yes. Others a no. All are good because they are right for you!

10. You become an example that they want to follow.
If the person asking you was one of the women sitting in my talk, she would appreciate the honesty and you would become her role model, because you are doing something she wishes could do. You are being honest, sincere, and true to yourself even as you say no.

How You Say No Matters

  • Always be kind and considerate.
  • Always thank the person for making the offer and considering you.
  • Always emphasize that you wish you could be involved and participate.
  • Always do it without shame or guilt.
  • Always express regret without looking desperately sorry.
  • Always close with another thank you.

And most of all, always be true to what you want first.

You are a super smart person. You just need to tune in and listen to what your inner desires are. If you could do it, you would but if you can’t, you owe it to yourself and to the people in your world to be honest. What do you think? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • http://www.selfstairway.com/feeling-invisible/ Vincent

    Great advice, but I also would like to point out that sometimes saying no becomes too easy and you become stubborn. Or perhaps your friends want to spend time with you but they give up after the 5th time you were “too busy” or “not feeling like it today.” Finding the balance and knowing how to respond with an either yes or no is important.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Vincent, thanks so much for your thoughts. You know, I don’t see it as being stubborn. If you don’t want to do something you just don’t :)! But if you are playing hard to get or being difficult that’s different. And if you tell them why you are turning them down, they will understand – there’s no ‘giving up’ if you are truly honest… :)

  • http://www.twonontechies.com Jesicka

    Farnoosh! What a great post! I really love it. I can really relate to it, and agree with the results. I’ll tell you why- it worked for me.
    This was one of my personal, main problems. As far back as I can remember- jr. high, high school, college and beyond, I was always called an “overachiever” for saying “yes” to all the extracurricular activities in the world. Partly it’s because I am a “multipotentialite,” but mostly it was because I couldn’t say “no” to someone asking me to join to help out. I continued to have this problem until very recently. I started to say “no” to things, events, and to people. It was painful at first but then I realized that people didn’t get upset or angry- the initial disappointment was very small compared to all those times I said “yes” and let someone down. These people I said “no” to didn’t “give up on me” instead they would be more careful in making sure whatever they were asking me would benefit me as well as them- I realized this was a form of respect for me and my time!

    Recently, I am happier because of this practice- of saying no. I focus on less things, more important activities to me, and I choose who I say yes to very carefully. Tim Ferris talks about this too- and Penelope Trunk- don’t give your valuable time away to people who don’t respect your time. Maybe, you should learn how to respect your own time first before you give it away to others.

    Thanks for this post!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Jesicka, nice to see you here, and I’ve shared that ‘overachiever’ title with you too – doesn’t exactly work out in our favor in the end, does it? Saying no is very liberating if we do it for the right reasons so good on you to start using it!! It’s totally worth your happiness and now you can say yes to the stuff you want … Way to go Jesicka!

  • http://www.midwaymarketplace.com Maxwell Ivey

    Hi Farnoosh; Another powerful thoughtful post packed with great information and persuasive arguments. we all have to learn when and how to say no. It is never easy and prrobably never will be, but it is an important skill in life and especially when running a business. The one thing I took out of this post was the people you are responding to. In the article they are people who know you, love you, and or respect you; so you can feel the freedom to give them an honest no when that is what is required. Thanks again and keep up the great work, Max

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Max, sweet heart, welcome back here and thanks for your truly unique insights. Yes, it is not easy and never will be – but easy is so over-rated ;)!
      Thanks Max. I hope you are doing well … and that you say no without feeling shame or guilt when you need to do it…..

      • http://www.midwaymarketplace.com Maxwell Ivey

        Hi Farnoosh; Yes, easy is over rated but then so is thinking everything has to be hard. Sometimes you just have to take the time to make an inventory of all the things you have to do or think you have to do and decide which ones are absolutely necessary. And saying no is easy if its something I have set in my mind from experience as being a deal breaker as they call them in business negotiations. If the question or request is about something I haven’t given prior thought to, then I’m more likely to say yes. and a whole other topic is what if you say no and they don’t listen. I’m speaking of family here. smile And thanks for the complement, I like the idea of being unique. I miss the podcasts, so I’m grateful that you are continuing the blog posts. And I’m doing very good health wise and okay business wise. How are you and your husband doing? take care, Max

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          I hear you on the family stuff, Max. And I hope business picks up big time for you but glad your health is going well – we are doing great and staying too busy … even after dropping the podcast 😉 Blog will be going strong no doubt.

  • Kristie

    Hi Farnoosh!

    I commented on some of your 100 affirmations a few days ago (about giving up and anger) and was delighted that you responded so quickly with nice, validating comments. I feel like a kid whose mom put my crayon picture of a horse on the refrigerator: I can’t wait to bring you another picture in hopes that you’ll put it up, too!

    So, here’s a picture of a cat that I made for you today… oh, I mean here are some thoughts about your new post.

    I have found that I should never agree to something when it’s late in the evening or I’m distracted or in a hurry, or the person’s request is an emotionally charged issue for me, or I REALLY like the person a lot, or other people are there, and THEY all agreed to help, etc, etc. When I agree in those situations, I usually end up having a what-was-I-thinking?! reaction later. So I often tell the person that I wish I could, but I don’t think I can; let me sleep on it/check my schedule/think about it/make a couple of phone calls, or whatever. Then when I get back to them, even if I have to tell them “‘no”, at least they know I seriously considered their request.

    Note: I don’t recommend using the let-me-think-about-it technique as a stalling tactic; if you know when they ask for help that your answer will be “no”, I think it’s best to be direct, honest and respectful: tell them “no” right then.


    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Kristie, I love to get drawings – send them over, darling!

      So I also do NOT recommend the let-me-think-about-it technique as a stalling tactic – I hope I expressed that right in the post ….. that’s totally not fair to anyone…

      And I love the conditions you warn us about – so very true… thanks for the reminders. Come back anytime, Kristie.

  • http://vidyasury.com Vidya Sury

    I want to hide when I think of all the times I didn’t say “No” when I wanted to. I learned the hard way. I realized I was self-sabotaging and how it interfered with my happiness. Ugh. I am much better now, yet reminders are always welcome. It is very hard to change a lifelong habit. As stupid as it sounds, if I have the answer, I am always ready to help and say yes when really ought to say “no”, especially when the activity cuts into something I’ve already planned to do.

    My first successful “No” was to a client who respected me for it. What was amazing was, it took our relationship to a whole new level. You are right about nurturing ourselves so we can nurture others. And keeping that sanity, oh yeah!

    Always an inspiration, Farnoosh! Thank you!

    Hugs, Vidya

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Brilliant of you, Vidya, to exercise it and to see the results – it’s counter-intuitive and hard for a lot of us to do – why do you think I keep writing about it? It’s mostly to remind myself that it’s okay to say no. Here’s to all the freedom saying no can afford us! :)
      Thanks for stopping by and lighting your shine here, Vidya.

    • Melly Deen

      Vidya, nice to see you here – I love your blog (and of course Farnoosh’s blog too). I really love the inspiration from both of you on saying no but it’s so freaking hard to do!!! I just have to remember I am nurturing me … and start small maybe. thank you both.

      • http://vidyasury.com Vidya Sury

        Thank you, Melly! :-) Such a sweet thing to say. Let me share a secret with you about building up my saying-no habit. Each time I am faced with a situation where I know that the right thing to do is say No, I take strength from the image of my friends encouraging me. Then I feel better and just do it. The prelude to this is, discussing this with friends….and you know good friends always tell you YOU CAN. :-)

        :-) Very nice to meet you here.

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          Loving this conversation – great tip Vidya, hon! And a lovely thought to bring to mind when you need to say no to someone.

  • http://www.becomingwhoyouare.net Hannah

    Yes! I love the points you make here Farnoosh.

    We all know that ‘no’ isn’t a dirty word, but actually saying no is a lot harder for many people. I really appreciate you raising the facts that when you are honest, authentic, bold, and say no when you’re thinking no, it can actually have a positive effect on other people’s lives! I know that I tend to focus on the potentially negative side-effects of saying no. During those times, I have to consciously take a step back and remind myself that just because I’m imagining it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen! :)

    Thank you for a timely reminder.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hannah, hi! Yes, when you do it that way, it DOES have a positive effect – I have seen it …. but delivery is so key and so crucial and has to be done just right. I know you can do it well when you need to. And thanks for dropping by, Hannah. Lovely seeing you here!

  • http://www.beyondschoolwalls.com Travis

    Love it! Mahatma Gandhi said it best, “A “NO” uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a “YES” merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”

    How many times do we simply just say Yes…yes…yes to appease people? Don’t get me wrong, I love helping people, but sometimes saying yes does more harm than good. Now when someone asks me to do something, I always ask them if I can get back with them in a few days. It helps me think it out and make a decision based on all of my commitments.

    Great Post.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Travis, thank you for the brilliant Gandhi quote – I’m gonna steal it away! :)
      And the answer it: too many times. I love helping people too but we can only scale to so much and saying no to some can open us to say yes to a lot more …. great seeing your thoughts.

  • http://intentionalemployee.com Bert

    Great post as always Farnoosh! I’m thankful I learned to say “no” when I was young in my career. It has helped me be successful and reduce my stress. People need to be confident before they will be able to say “no.” I try to teach my co-workers and subordinates to say “no” when they will not be able to put 100% effort into the activity. Saying “yes” but not putting in maximum effort will not get someone anywhere.

    Thanks for the continuing with the useful lessons you teach. I always look forward to your insights.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Yes, Bert. Please keep spreading the message: Be confident to say no. :)
      Thanks so much for the affirmation and I love that you are seeing it give you great results in your career ….

  • http://gettingcomfy.com Barbara

    Learning to say no has been the most valuable lesson I have learned. It has opened my time up so much to do more of what I want to do.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Barbara, you and me both but like you said, it opens us up to a better world :)!

  • http://www.iwordsofwisdom.com Dems

    Thanks Farnoosh, I learned to say NO a while back. Actually I made the discovery about the joy of it when I had to say no to an invitation to attend a birthday party. I realized that I did not loose my friendship and actually I felt much better inside because I really could not go to the party and I made my reasons clear to my friend. I later decided that if I do not want to do something then it is much better for me and the one asking to be honest and say no. On the other hand if I find it useful to say yes, then I will do it with my whole heart. Each time we say yes to something we automatically say No to many other things.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dems, good for you …an honest no is sooo much better than a fake yes. Your friends will appreciate it too. And an honest heart-felt yes, that’s truly special. Keep it up! Thank you so much for stopping by.

  • http://www.shannatrenholm.com shanna

    Oh Farnoosh, how I love this (and you)! This has been a big part of my practice, learning to say no with grace and clarity. It’s so important for my sanity, and I am so much better to all my people when I make considered decisions about taking on new projects, clients, whatever. Of course, I am still over-extended, often, but not always!
    I wrote a piece for All Things Girl a few years ago on this very topic: http://allthingsgirl.com/2010/05/getting-to-yes-by-saying-no-by-shanna-trenholm/
    I wrote it as much for myself as anyone else who may have needed it! Keep up your thoughtful posts, I love reading you! :)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Shanna, darling, how are you? I have no doubt you are a pro at saying no. The over-extended part comes from our ambitions, methinks! 😉 But at least we are being selective about it. I think I’ve read that other piece by you too. Glad to see your lovely face here and thanks for sharing the importance of saying no.

  • http://confidencecues.com Rob Leonardo

    I’m happy to see this post and be able to say that I seem to know how to say ‘no’. Nothing new. What is new to me- or should I say what I was reminded of- is the fact that I do not have to regret that I did say ‘no’! Why do I always have to beg off in some invitation and yet waste time resenting? Thanks for this food for thought :)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Rob, good on you – and yes, the part of not carrying the guilt is a big one. You gotta feel GREAT when you say no. You are welcome and thanks for stopping by.

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  • http://www.duoplay.org Dijana

    Hi Farnoosh!
    I think a lot about this topic and what intrigues me most is where this kind of behaviour came from? I have a theory that it is conditional behaviour caused by our parents. When they asked us to do something, especially if they were controlling, we learned there is no other option than saying yes all the time.

    I think that most of our problems in the adult life come from our relationship with parents and it’s sad that they generally don’t teach us the most useful life skills.

    As a consequence, I didn’t have a problem with saying no, but with asking myself is this what I want in the first place. But I’ve learned to decline everything I don’t want to do, although it took me a lot of time.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      LOL. I love blaming our poor parents too but it’s probably partial at best. You know? They did the best they could and out of good intentions. But I hear you – our parents are from a different generation and since I am not a parent, I don’t know what they went through … I’m glad to see you are ever so confident though :)!

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  • http://panicawaybookreview.org Emma

    I think saying no is something a lot of people struggle with. Being open and honest in your relationships helps, as does being able to communicate effectively so other people know where you stand. That way you minimize the risk of causing offence which is a big part of the reason why I and many others have difficulty saying no.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Exactly Emma, and doing all that makes it easier and easier to get to no every time! :)

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  • Negar

    Hi Farnoosh jan! Needed some inspiration and this is where I turned to and so glad I did :). LOVED this post! It is so timely. Just this past weekend I exercised saying no multiple times. I had noticed that this past weekend was the first weekend in all of 2013 that I had no plans going into the weekend. No place to be. No one to meet up with. No errand to run. Nothing to celebrate. And it felt GREAT! During the weekend, a few friends reached out to make plans and though I absolutely love to spend time with them, I purposely said no to all of them simply to lounge and enjoy the weekend. And it was wonderful!! =)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Proud of you to sticking to what you needed even if it meant a wee bit of disappointment for your friends. It takes guts to be honest and still respect your own boundaries. I hope that you are enjoying wonderful married bliss still – it was lovely seeing you here Negar!!!

  • Audrey

    I don’t have too much of a problem with boundaries – except with a certain elderly relative. I find she is taking up far too much of my time and although I am fond of her and like to give her some attention and assistance when needed, she is one of those impulsive persons who gets an idea and must run with it immediately….I tend to be more cautious and like to give an idea a bit of space first to see if it will work for me, so we are at odds. The problem is that she is so obviously disappointed if I say no, not just yet, that I feel really bad. Also, I had to give up several years of my life previously to be fulltime carer for an elderly parent who refused to go into care, so I am now trying to get my life back and have more “me” time – and certainly don’t want to wind up as another fulltime carer now I am in my mature years myself.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Audrey, sounds like you know exactly what you need to do …. and just remember, something that I’ve learned the hard way: nobody makes us feel bad without our own consent. We really choose to feel bad or feel guilty… what if you didn’t and what if that’s not even her intention? I hope you follow your heart and not carry the burden of guilt on the journey. Thanks for stopping by and do come back.

  • http://www.planetnaveen.com/2013/01/the-incredible-benefits-of-saying-no/ Naveen Kulkarni

    Excellent post about saying “No”.

    It’s better to stay at “No” rather than a “Yes” turning into “No”.

    I have written a similar post on my (link below). May be it would add to your article.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Naveen, thanks for sharing – I linked your post up to your name and glad you enjoyed it.

      • http://www.planetnaveen.com Naveen Kulkarni

        Thanks Farnoosh,

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