How Saying, "No" Helps You Stay Focused on Your Goals

Ever wish you were more assertive and felt able to say, “no” to situations or people that aren’t supporting your goals?


If you tend to feel physically sick or break out in a cold sweat at just the thought of fighting your corner or saying, “no” to somebody, it’s time to work on your assertiveness skills to improve boundaries. Other signs include being fed up with people treating you like a doormat and feeling overwhelmed by the demands that other people put on you. 

Feeling unable to say, “no” can have a big impact on your self esteem, the plans you have for yourself, and can cause you to feel a lot of bitterness and resentment. This can eat away at you and affect your ability to practice self love. One of the big problems with being passive is that it effectively tells people that they are more important than you and they’ll often act in line with this. 

Ready to learn how to be more assertive and start saying, “no” to things without feeling bad about it?

What is assertiveness?

Being assertive means that you feel comfortable standing your ground and saying, “no” to something if it’s not the right thing for you. This might mean turning down requests to do something or raising an issue at work. 

It’s often mixed up with being aggressive or arrogant but they’re actually very different stances. Being assertive is about a clear knowing of your boundaries and capacities at any given time, you are ready to stand firm about your needs. Think of it this way: you want to get your point across and not lose control in the process. Be prepared for people to be uncomfortable with you being assertive and projecting this back onto you by saying you are being aggressive or arrogant. You are not responsible for taking care of their feelings about your assertiveness.

Tips for being more assertive

Are there certain situations or people that have started to cause you a lot of resentment?

If you’re looking to stand your ground more, there are probably going to be specific areas of your life that are causing you the most concern for this. That may be a friend who is always putting on you or a colleague that doesn’t pull their weight. 

It can help to think about your values and priorities in life and stand firm on anything that isn’t helping you to achieve these. Spend a bit of time thinking about which areas of your life would benefit from you being a bit more assertive. Every day do an experiment of being assertive for at least one thing.

Don’t over explain

If you’re saying, “no”, you don’t need to give a detailed explanation of exactly why you’re declining. It can often come across as though you’re spinning them a story that you just made up on the spot. It also gives more opportunity for the other person to try to disagree with you. Be firm and brief with your reasons but don’t go overboard. Remember that, “NO” is a complete sentence.

Throw it back on them

In a work situation, you can be assertive and maintain your boundary by throwing the question back on the other people. For example, you might lighten the load of what you’re being asked to do by responding with, “I’m happy to take on some of this but I’ll need X amount of time to make a good job of it. How should I go ahead and prioritize it?”. This forces the other person to respond to what you’re saying and not just dump a bunch of extra labor on you.

Focus on “I” and “we” statements 

When you do raise an issue, your choice of language can make a lot of difference. Using statements that include “I” and “we” can be a lot less inflammatory and soften the blow of what you’re saying. In comparison, saying “you” a lot can make them less receptive to your comments. 



It can be really challenging to start saying, “no” to things when you have been so used to being passive and agreeing to everything. Before you dive into being more assertive in a real life situation, it can be a good idea to practice how these situations might play out. If you don’t have a friend that can role play with you, try doing it in front of the mirror. It might seem strange to begin with but it’s a great way to see how you come across and if there are areas you can improve when you do it for real.

What are you going to say , “no” to that will help your boundaries and your goals?

Nancy TrunzoComment