Stressed Out Because You Can’t Say No

Why is one of the smallest words in the English language so difficult to say?

The word is NO and many people find it difficult to say because as children it was considered very rude to say NO and the word was thereby expunged from the infant vocabulary.

There are some occasions when using the word NO is easy.

Would you like another large helping of pudding?” – “No thank you.”

Would you like to parachute off the Sydney Harbour Bridge?” – “No thank you.”

It is relatively easy in these situations to say the word NO particularly when we append the words thank you.

It is much harder to say NO when a friend or co-worker may ask us to do something. In this instance instead of saying “No thank you“, say “Yes, but…” Here are some examples:

Would you be able to collect the brochures on the way home from the printer.

You reply:Yes I would love to but unfortunately I have to be home early because guests are arriving for dinner.”

Would you be able to process these accounts today?

You reply: “Yes I’d love to but I will not be able to complete the annual report.”

By combining “yes” and “but” we excuse ourselves without being rude.

Being assertive is a vital stress management skill. It takes time and patience to master assertiveness but is definitely worth the effort as it spares us much grief in the long run.


  1. I think we all should learn how to say “NO”. I have suffered a lot just because I don’t have this quality.

  2. I understand this exactly, I’ve had difficulty saying no since my teenage years. I’m now 53 years old, and still struggle with this to some degree. The problem for me sometimes, is I walk around feeling resentful sometimes, and mumbling not so nice things, feeling stupid and frustrated that I didn’t have the guts to say no. I’ve always been a nice quiet person, since I was about 13 years old.

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John Townsend

My name is John Townsend and I have been working as a Stress Management Consultant since 1986. My seminar, Get Tough With Stress, has been presented to thousands of people throughout the world and shows people how to toughen up to stress and to transform stressful experiences into valuable learning experiences.

My clients include many of Australia’s largest companies plus Australian Government Departments and agencies. One of my greatest personal joys was to present my Get Tough With Stress programme to staff of the Australian Parliament.

Over the past 15 years I have been presenting to large numbers of Chief Executive Officers through an organisation called The Executive Connection (TEC). I have been privileged to receive the highest honours bestowed on speakers by TEC, an organisation dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of Chief Executives.

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