10 Ways to Stop Saying Yes When You Should Say No


I knew the request was unrealistic. My brain cued all the right signals for my mouth to say no. But somewhere between the sinking feeling in my heart of how this would affect my relationship with this person and the pressure of her expectations for me to agree to her request, I blurted out, “Yes, of course!”

I said yes when I absolutely, positively knew I should say no!

I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has this scenario play out in their lives over and over. I know I’m caught in the rip current of people pleasing when I dread saying yes but feel powerless to say no. I have and still do wrestle with saying no.

Now lean in and let me whisper something I’m trying desperately to teach myself,
No isn’t a cuss word.
It doesn’t have to be hurtful. You will survive and so will they.
Saying no is not a rejection. It’s a necessary protection of your Best Yes answers.

So here are 10 ways to graciously say no when you feel pressured to say yes:

1. While my heart wants to say yes, yes, yes, the reality of my time makes this a no.
2. I am honored by your request but I’m in a season of refocusing my priorities and have committed not to add anything new right now.
3. After living at an unhealthy breakneck pace for too long, I’m learning to realistically assess my capacity. Though I would love to say yes, the reality of my limitations means I must say no this time.
4. I so appreciate you asking me, but I must be brave and decline this opportunity. Saying no is hard for me but necessary in this season. Thank you for understanding.
5. I’ve promised my family not to add any new commitments to my schedule right now. Thank you for our friendship that allows me to be honest with my realities.

6. Thank you for thinking of me. Your project sounds wonderful. However, as much as I would love to be involved, I can’t give your project the attention it deserves right now.
7. While I would love to connect about your new project, I’ve discovered this is one of those activities I must give up while trying to ____________________ (write my book, start my business, stick to my project, etc.) Saying yes would just enable my unhealthy habit of procrastination. Thank you for understanding and helping me push through to the finish line.
8. There is nothing more that I love than helping others in my field get started. Unfortunately, I get so many requests for this that I’m no longer able to meet in person. So, I’ve created this attached document with my best advice. (Create a standard PDF for instances like this so you only have to type out your advice one time.)
9. While I don’t have time for a lunch appointment, I’d love to connect for a few minutes over the phone. I can talk from 8-8:30am.
10. Thank you so much for caring enough about me to want my involvement. Unfortunately, I’m not able to participate this time. But I’m certainly cheering for your continued success.

Please understand Im not advocating that we should always say no. But I am advocating that we should sometimes say no so we can be available for our Best Yes.

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photo credit: Grzegorz W. Tezycki

Lysa TerKeurst is a wife, mother of five, and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is the author of several bestselling books including The Best Yes, which can be ordered in Resources.