A red cardinal against the snow

How to say no when it matters most

Saying no is one of the hardest things to do, especially for highly sensitive people. You don’t want to disappoint someone, or make them think you don’t care – or worse, seem selfish or unfriendly or rude. Yet, if you live with anxiety or depression and find yourself saying yes when you need to say no, then this is an important area to pay attention to. It’s time to learn how to say no when it matters most. 

Saying no is an act of love

Saying no is an act of love for yourself, and an act of respect for the recipient. After all, no one who really cares about you would want you to say yes to something that will make you feel overextended, stressed, or anxious. They wouldn’t dream of asking if they knew the price you’d pay.

Now, I know you might be thinking, This sounds great, but easier said than done! 

You’re right, but it’s like any new skill. With time and practice, muscle memory and the sheer joy of having space to focus on what you love most will take over. You will have a new baseline, and saying “no” will come naturally. 

How to stop the insta-yes

One of the best ways to make space for a “no” is to first block your gut instinct to say yes. Some call it the insta-yes. You know, the yes that flies out before you’ve really thought about it.  

First, take a breath before answering. The pause gives you a moment to really assess what you need, and a moment to decide how to say no as the authentic, loving person you are. If it helps, that pause can include holding your hand over your stomach – which is your power center – and reminding yourself of your power. 

-Second, offer a “no” response that is simple and kind. For those who push harder, take another breath and be willing to be firm. You’re worth it. You’re drawing boundaries. They will manage.

So what, exactly, do I say? 

Here are some gentle “no” responses that you can carry in your back pocket, so that you’re ready to say no when it matters most. 

  • “Thanks so much for thinking of me, but I’ve been overextended and promised myself not to take on anything else/ go anywhere until I got some rest.”
  • As a rule, I ______________ (am home by 6pm on weeknights/ never go out on Sundays, etc). I’m so glad you invited me and hope we can catch up soon!
  • My schedule is so crammed right now, I’m not able to go out for lunch/ volunteer for the bake sale/ etc. Could we do ________ instead at a later date?
  • To be honest, I’d love to contribute another time but it’s just not in the cards right now.”

For more ideas, or to see a list that includes work or client situations where you could use some help saying no, I highly recommend downloading “The Ultimate Guide to Saying No,” by Marie Forleo. 

Say Yes to only what matters most

Above all, there are two points that I want you to remember: 

Saying no when you need to is an act of self love, and no one knows what you truly need except you. 


If you feel like saying “maybe,” say no. 

You’re someone who shows up with everything you’ve got. Which means the things that get your “yes” should truly deserve that kind of energy. 

All right, my friend. It’s time to go forth and become a first class disappointer. Disappoint the heck out of every person and request that comes your way that isn’t in line with your dreams, desires, and needs. Say no when it matters most. A happier, calmier you stands on the other side. A you glowing with energy for the people and things you love the best. 

You’re worth it. 

To your joy,