5 Simple Zen Ways To Saying "No" And Live Happier

Its human nature to want to help people. I myself am a recovering people pleaser. Its normal to want to be dependable. To be that person that anyone and everyone can count on. It can make us feel happy and fulfilled to be "needed". To be the "go to girl". This can also lead to a lot of un-needed stress in our lives when we say "yes" while every part of our being is screaming "Please NO!". 

Do you have a hard time saying "no" to people? Do you find yourself saying "yes" to please others even when its at the expense of your own sanity? It's okay, you’re not alone. This has been a personal struggle of mine for years. I was not good at saying “no” because I did not want to disappoint people. I love to be liked as much as anyone. The last thing I want to do is make another person feel like I do not care about their needs. 

Image Credit: Kate Oakley Adorned Photography
Featuring Michelle Muench ThrivingPlantBased 
Wearing Liquido Active

Even though I am much more aware of this personality flaw, I can still easily find myself uttering "sure I can do that for you" when all I want to do is politely decline and retreat back to my introverted creative space.

When we are habitual offenders of saying "yes" when we really should be saying "no", we are doing ourselves and others a huge disservice. Why put time, focus and energy into something when your heart is not fully in it? 


To learn to firmly say “No” more often, its important to first understand why its such a struggle to verbally utter a simple two letter word in the first place:

  1. The love of helping. Obviously, you are the type of girl who has a big heart, who genuinely loves to help your fellow sister tribe in their time of need.
  2. Fear of earning the rude label. This is where people pleasing can rear its ugly head. In our society saying "no" can be perceived as rude and the last thing you want is to be labeled "that girl". So you cave into the pressure of saying "yes" even though its the LAST thing you really want or need to do. 
  3. Peer pressure. Even as adults we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of wanting to be one of the "cool kids".  You don't want to be the fun sucker of the group or alienate yourself because you want to go right when everyone else is going left so you give-in to saying "yes". 
  4. Creating Drama. Its safe to say that most people do not want to purposely invite negative energy into their space. Saying "no" could cause the other person to become angry or bitter and lead to messy drama and who wants to deal with that. For some "no" is all the reason they need to hold a 10 year grudge so its easier to just say "yes" and avoid burning any bridges.
  5. Missing out. Maybe you fear that if you say "no" the person will put you in the "always unreliable" box and never ask you to participate in any future projects or events. 

If you are shaking your head up and down because you have been guilty some of these, let me just say this: I hear you loud and clear. I feel you. I have said "yes" plenty of times when I should have said "no". In my own personal growth what I have come to realize is that there are a lot of misconceptions in life. Our fears + crazy thoughts manifest into other worries that totally snowball out of control. Our imaginations start running wild about what other people think and feel. We create unnecessary doubts and insecurities. When we can acknowledge that, we are capable of shifting our entire mindset so we can release any guilt that comes with saying "no". 

It's Your Party. You Can Say "No" If You Want To.

At the end of the day, what matters is not the fact that you are saying "no" but how you deliver the message. You have your own life that revolves around your family, priorities, needs and wants just like everyone else. No matter how hard you try, you can't be all things to all people. When you say "no" you respect and value your time and space. You can be more present for the people who truly need you. When you can say "yes", you can serve that situation to the best of your ability.  

Its safe to say you can not avoid saying "no" all together. You will earn yourself a ticket on the crazy train if you said "yes" every time someone in your life needed something. So it’s all about learning how to set boundaries and say "no" in a loving respectful way. I promise, once you start to honor your space more you will realize it’s not as scary as you have made it out to be. You may even be shocked at how understanding people are. The fear we have around telling other people "no" is really all in our head. 

Here are 5 simple ways for you to say "no" and create more Zen in your life:

1. “I would love to work on that with you, it sounds amazing but unfortunately I have some lose ends that I need to tie up but definitely keep me in mind for future projects."

This lets the person know that you appreciate being asked but you have other commitments at that moment that require your energy and attention. This also keeps the door open for them to keep you in mind for future projects. It lets them know that you are not saying "no" to them, but just have too much on your plate to pile on anything else. Most people will understand. 

2. “Right now is not an ideal time for me, but how about we catch back up in a few days? What does your schedule look like over the next week so we can put a follow up date on the calendar?”

People rarely catch us at a "good time". I mean, aren't we all usually in the middle of something? Everyone is living busy lives. This allows you to temporarily hold off their agenda but also lets them know that you do care about what is going on in their life and what they are working on. Most people will understand that and appreciate your honesty keeping them from feeling like you are just blowing them off.

3. “I would really love to help with and am so honored that you would think of me, but can't commit to anything else at the moment.”

This a gentle way of breaking up with the other person's request. You are letting them know that you would love to help and that you greatly appreciate them thinking of you to even ask but its just not feasible for you at the moment. Be honest and sincere and ask if there is a way that you can still support them without being heavily involved. Most people will appreciate this. 

4. “Give me a couple of days to think about it and check my schedule to ensure I am not over committing myself and I will get back to you.”

Sometimes you need to sleep on it for a couple of days so you can come to a fair decision for you and the other person especially if it sounds like a big project that will require a lot of your time and/or energy. This is like a strong "maybe", you are interested but you need some time to make an informed decision. The person should not have an issue with you taking a short period of time to make a full commitment. If they act pushy in any way, that will be a huge red flag to your intuition and more than enough reason to say "no" right then and there. Just be sure not to leave the person hanging. Let the person know when they can expect a follow up response from you. If you say you need 24-48 hours to think about it, stay true to your word. 

5. “I am not the best person to help you with this but I know someone who is. Let me get you in touch with them.”

When you are being asked to participate in something that you aren't able to commit to, use it as an opportunity to connect two people together. The person will appreciate your willingness to still help them even though you can not personally be involved and the person you are connecting them with will appreciate the referral. When you collaborate and support others its like you aren't even saying "no". Its a win/win for everyone and who doesn't LOVE that?!

Yes there will be people who don't like to take "no" for an answer and you will have to discern if those relationships are worth keeping. When someone acts immaturely to you saying "no" and honoring your space, its an opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate that relationship and the energy they are bringing into your space. 

Stay out of the people pleasing trap and master the art of saying "NO" to people and requests that are not aligned with your core values. You will find that you have more time for yourself, your purpose and the things that drive your passion. Your journey to more Zen truly does start with "no". 

Looking to say "yes" to building a business and brand you love? Check out the Creative Branding Academy xo


April Williams is a Creative Momista and Soulpreneur of 2 boys + whimsical wavemaker + creative expressive + Texas country girl + branding junkie who loves green mint tea + horses + fuzzy socks + surrounding herself with high achieving amazing women + peppermint anything + the color red + cozy coffee shops. She is a business coach for creative women entrepreneurs and founder of Creative Brandista™.

Imagine. Create. Inspire.