How To Say No To People

“No” is a simple two letter word but when we’re delivering it, it often sounds like we’re attempting to say onomatopoeia or “Susie sells seashells down by the seashore.” Difficult and long, our tongue trips up on the letters before we finally give up and push it aside. Why is it so hard to say something simple though? Why do we constantly say yes to the things we secretly want to say no to?

Luckily for you, I’m an expert in saying no, even though it wasn’t always this way. In high school and college, I would let people walk all over me, sometimes paying for people’s lunches and getting roped into things I didn’t want to do. My willingness to please became the source of many resentments and paper thin friendships. When I moved to New York, I moved into a studio apartment and let EVERYONE stay with me. It became a hotel that was overrun by friends, friends of friends, and people I’ve never actually met before. Oftentimes, I would meet someone and they’d be like, “Oh, I stayed at your place once when you were in California! Cute apartment!” It was then that I realized I had been too generous of a host. It wasn’t my friends’ fault though. They let me know exactly what was going on. I was just terrible at establishing boundaries. Whenever people would ask if they could stay with me, I would feel bad turning them down, so I would invariably say yes, even though I really, really didn’t want to.

This whole “saying yes” thing changed, however, when I graduated college, got a full-time job and moved into a two-bedroom apartment with a friend of mine. Suddenly I was able to say the word I once feared the most and with gusto! Getting older and having a busier life does that to you, you know. Why do you think old people are so damn crabby? It’s because they’ve lived a long life and are a O-V-E-R pleasing others. That’s kind of what happened to me except I’m only 25 and I don’t even have a whole lot going on. But that’s what happens when you spend your life being a “YES” person. One day you just snap and go in the opposite direction. You operate on extremes, suddenly saying no to things you should’ve said yes to. It’s only been a year since I’ve been using the word “NO” with people and I think I’m still drunk on the liberation it gives me. Hopefully the dust will settle and I’ll level out. As it stands, I’ve become a little bit of a brat who won’t do anything, which is also no fun.

It’s important to learn how to say no to people. When we’re in our twenties, I feel like we’re so ruled by our feelings of guilt that we have trouble setting limits with people. If you fail to establish boundaries though, you’ll just end up attracting a bunch of users and fall into some toxic relationships. Everyone has that one friend they have trouble saying no to. It sucks! Just say no and if they can’t handle it and guilt trip you, then they’re crappy friends who deserve to get voted off the island. If you can say no to that joint that’s being casually passed around, you can certainly say no to a boring catch up date with someone from high school. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


More From Thought Catalog

  • Heretica Neue

    I’m happy that you’re able to say no now. I am disappointed, however, that this article didn’t tell me how to say no. From the title, that’s what I was expecting. 

    • Gregory Costa

      “Fuck off.” 

  • CertifiedJatt

    How to say no to people:

    1. Get older.
    2. Graduate college.
    3. Get a job.
    4. Now, because of 1, 2, and 3, you can say no.

    Is that the thesis of your post? If not, I wouldn’t know because your post was empty. Someone should have said no to your post.

    • guest

      aw you’re fun!!

  • Paul S

    Wait ’till you have kids – your ability to say “no” will increase
    exponentially.  In fact, that is one of the only reasons to have kids;
    so you can stay no to shit and stay in! 

  • Cole Armstrong

    Don’t listen to the haters, Ryan, you have been on fire today. I”m pretty sure it’s because you got your junk waxed.

  • Roy

    Hmm.. not up to your usual standard. Or is that also something you’re saying ‘No’ to? I, on the other hand, find it so easy to say No, that these days I say yes. Yes to that catch up date… yes to the family dinner with family i’ve never heard of, Yes to buying that rather expensive pair of sunglasses just because my friend said I looked cute, yes to the friends dropping in with a 5-minute notice….. because, honestly, Why Not? In a world increasingly populated with isolated urbanistas.. I find human contact essential.  But that’s just me.

  • Shawn

    Learning how to say not to put up with people’s BS is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

    Saying no to bad is saying yes to life.

  • Jennifer Gniadecki

    I say “No, thank you.” Even when the situation is entirely inappropriate. If someone is in mid-sentence about something I don’t give a crap about I’ll smile, say “No, thank you” and walk away. It works like a charm.

  • Lauren Hatch

    “If you can say no to that joint that’s being casually passed around, you
    can certainly say no to a boring catch up date with someone from high

    I think I need to tattoo that on my arm.  Haha.  The amount of people I hang out with just because I don’t know how to say “no” is alarming. 

  • Breonna4u

    *takes a deep breath* NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!

  • pras

    crap article.. 

  • Melissa

    Who is this person from high school who you really hate having lunch with?

  • Vienne

    What did you major in/what do you do for a living?

  • Joshua Roshan Tan

    felt shortchanged. :/

  • Hannah

    Why would you say no to a joint that’s being casually passed around?

blog comments powered by Disqus