Saying “no,” Meghan Trainor style: Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no.

Why is it uncomfortable to say “no?” In some cases, we might feel pressured to say “yes”, because we don’t want to let someone down or we want to avoid the awkward feeling that saying “no” can cause.

However, being able to say “no” is important in your academic, social or personal life. Here are some ways that we can get comfortable with saying “no.”


Anthropomorphic cat with a calm expression and a hand on their chest saying "Practice makes perfect."

It may sound funny, but practicing to say “no” in the mirror can be helpful. If you’re turning down a recruiter to take on a different job offer, rehearse a formal rejection and thank them for their time.

And remember, learning to say “no” will mean you’ll be available to say “yes” when it matters.

Say it with a smile

Woman smiling and pointing to her smile.

We’ve all had that moment where we struggled to say “no” to a family member, a friend or another student. It’s important to remember that you’re allowed to say “no.” But how do you provide a rejection when you’re worried about the response?

Say “no” with a smile. It’s hard to argue with someone who is being perfectly polite and cordial. Practice a nice rejection and hold your ground when pushed.

Thanks for the offer—but no.

And if it becomes an issue, pay a visit to the IGNITE’s Dispute Resolution Clinic (DRC) and get it sorted out.

Embrace the awkwardness

Woman hugging another older woman who arrives through the door with a suitcase.
You embracing the temporary awkwardness.

What if we’re more afraid of the awkwardness afterwards? As much as we want to avoid awkwardness, it can be powerful to just—embrace it. That’s right, survive through an awkward “no” and live to tell the tale.

We’re pretty sure this is the way to build up resistance.

And when that awkwardness passes, go and treat yourself. You’ve earned it, champion.

Prioritize your needs

Green dinosaur standing in front of a mirror smiling and holding a red heart.

Rejection can feel like you’re being “mean” but other people are not entitled to you or your time. It helps to muster up the courage to say “no” when you prioritize your own needs.

A good friend asks you to stay up late and help them with homework. Yes, you want to help but it’s already 1 a.m. and you’ve got work tomorrow. Reiterate in your mind how helping them will disadvantage you.

A relationship is all about give and take. Invest the same energy that they put into your friendship, but allow yourself to be number one.

Reflect on the situation

There are times where we don’t want to say “no” because we want to help out. That’s completely understandable!

But there are also times when we feel pressured to say “yes.”

Take a moment to think about why it’s uncomfortable to say “no.” Would a good friend pressure you to say “yes?” Would a good significant other make you feel guilty for saying “no?”

Bold orange text "Do It For You" against a blue background.

Reflecting on the situation can make it clear when someone doesn’t have your best interest at heart. You know you deserve respect.

Don’t provide a reason

Have you ever provided a reason only to have someone invalidate it for their benefit? It happens. We move on, adapt and overcome. Not providing a reason or explanation means getting to the end of the badgering stage quicker.

“Why won’t you do this for me?”

“Because I’ve decided not to.”

Microphone dropping on the ground with the sound effect text "BOOM."

The mic drops, you walk off stage, the crowd cheers behind you but you’re already flying away in the helicopter. But, in all seriousness, “no” is a full sentence.

Saying “no” is not only important for setting boundaries, but also for our self autonomy. There’s lots of other ways to communicate “no.” Additionally, it can get easier by reading about the importance and value of say “no.”

You’ve got this.

Don’t feel bad for prioritizing yourself. Still feel guilty for taking breaks? Read this.

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