How to Say “No” Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away

495874795No! – A simple, two-letter word.  Should be easy to say, right?  No!  In my experience, this small declaration of independence is often the result of a hard-fought war within the mind.  Victory can be won, but the battles are tough!

Dr. John Townsend, author of the book Boundaries, says that “No” is the Christian curse word – that’s a pretty strong statement but with so many believers who “can’t say no,” I can see why he would say such a thing!  Let me give you an example:

A young man recently confessed he had been asked to be a youth leader, Sunday school teacher, greeter, deacon and part of the leadership team at his church.  He had a wife and two small children and oh by the way, he also worked a full-time job!   While he enjoyed each aspect of his involvement at church, it soon became obvious his priorities were messed up!

He wanted to say no, he needed to say no, but he said yes anyway.  As a result, he had begun to feel used and resentful; on his way to burn-out.

He, like many of us, needed to learn how to say no without blowing up, wimping out or running away.    What do I mean by these terms?


Blowing up! –  We “take it” and “take it” and “take it,” until we can’t “take it” any more!  Like the young man above, we take on too much!  From a place of resentment we explode in anger, and usually the relationship is blown up as well!


Wimping Out – We don’t want to agree but we also can’t quite get up the courage to say no.  So we excuse ourselves by muttering things like: “If I don’t agree, they’ll be mad.” “They’re in a bad place right now.”  “They need me.” ”They won’t like me.”  We can find plenty of reasons to “wimp out!”


Running Away –  We begin to avoid the other person,  change the subject or come up with a bunch of excuses.  These are often the people who burn out and stop doing ANYTHING, going from one extreme to the other.

The question then becomes:

How do we say no without blowing up, wimping out or running away?

Pass the “P’s” Please

     A couple of “P’s” can help:  — Planning and Practice.  Let’s talk about Planning first:

     Planning – If you haven’t been very good at saying “No,” you will need to plan ahead and get some tools for your toolbox.  Here are three:

Tool #1 – Keep It Short and Sweet

Don’t explain, but keep your “no” short and simple.  Too often, people feel obliged to expound on why they need to say no.  However, the longer the story, the more others can find reasons why that just doesn’t work!   “Oh, don’t worry,” they’ll say, “it won’t take that long,” “it’s just for this time,” etc. etc. etc.

I recently called to cancel our TV subscription.  You know what’s that like, right?  They have specially trained people to talk you out of cancelling and often, you wind up signing up again!

I was prepared this time, however, with something I call


Tool #2 – The Broken Record Technique

Me:  “I want to cancel our TV subscription.”

TV Employee:  “Oh, what brought you to this decision?”  (ready to counter any objections I might offer)

Me:  “Broken Record” – repeated same thing:  “I just need to cancel our TV subscription.”

After a couple of other efforts to get more information from me, the employee said, “well, it’s your decision.  We’re sorry to lose you as a customer.”

Yes!  I was able to say No!

Tool #3 – Learn a New Phrase – “Let Me Get Back To You”

Suppose you’re asked to add something to your already full schedule and you know you don’t have time.  However, you’re filled with anxiety when you even contemplate “disappointing” them.   It’s important not to use this as a “wimp out;” which can drive you to say, “Sure, I’d be happy be help!  Instead, you pull out Tool #3 and say, “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.”

Within 24 hours, call and say, “I’m sorry; I checked my calendar and I can’t do that.  I wish you all the best!”  If necessary, use Tool #2 – Broken Record – and simply repeat what you’ve already said.  Then, pump your fist and say, “Yes!  I was able to say No!”

Ok, you’ve Planned and you’re Prepared; the next step is to Practice.  We can have very satisfying conversations in our heads that don’t translate to our tongues very well.  When you practice, familiarity brings comfort and confidence.

Practice using each of the tools listed above:

·         In front of a mirror

·         With someone else

·         Writing down exactly what you want to say

Then – enjoy the freedom which comes from Learning To Say No Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away!


14 thoughts on “How to Say “No” Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away

  1. This is a great blog! I have many friends that tell me they wish they could say no and can’t. So I shared it on facebook 🙂
    Thank you!!!

  2. Awesome post!!! Years ago, I went to a one time counseling session with Larry Russel and my soon to be ex-husband. At the end of the session Larry gave me a book called “Boundaries” and wanted me to read it, so I did. I was sooooooo offended by the book that I couldn’t even believe that he would even give me such a thing to read. I remember telling Lori shortly afterwards that he had given me the book to read. As Larry walked by to give the book to someone else that he was counseling, I commented to him that he should throw the book right in the trash that was next to him. LOL ( I was serious at the time). How on earth could I meet with Larry one time and in just one hour of him speaking to me and my husband that he would even need to feel that I needed to read the book???? He’s awesome at what he does. The reason the book offended me so much, is because the book pretty much said that all of the negative situations that I am going through and are allowing are MY fault and until I do something differently they will continue to be my fault and I can blame no-one but myself. UGH-HOW RUDE…. Little by little I overcame the fear of hurting someones feelings, loss and rejection, and started working on healthy boundaries. It’s not easy at first, but with practice it does get easier. To learn to say “no” when you need to say “no” is one of the greatest and most exhilarating feelings that you will ever have in your life-it affects every part of your life. If that person that you are saying “no” to, can not accept it and tries to force themselves/situations on you, then they’re not for you. It’s better to lose that relationship than to be used and abused! Praise God for freedom!

    • Teresa – Thanks so much for this thoughtful and impactful comment! You had to learn the hard way, as most of us do, that setting boundaries is indeed the key to freedom!! 🙂 It is also very true that with practice it does get easier — and of course you begin to see and reap the benefits of such actions. Good for you! This is awesome!

  3. Good lesson! We need to get this out to young adults so they can have tools to help them with their busy schedules and new families. I find they ignore the request and you are waiting for a yes or no and they suddenly are not responding with you.. I can sure say no….because I am not able to. Good word.

    • Thanks for commenting, Helen – Boy, can you imagine if young people did indeed begin learning and using such tools, how much better their lives would be! I guess that’s why we pass on what we learn from education and experience. Appreciate your insight. Barbra

  4. Oh Barb, even after many classes – including Boundaries (the Townsend book) – and personal counseling on this – I find that though I’ve found much deliverance – “No” is still an item I struggle with – for all the reasons you just listed – and I so appreciate these new tools to add to my “tool box” – thanks

  5. Kathy – I don’t think you’re alone!! We can all still struggle with saying no from time to time. Fortunately, I have found the more we prayerfully consider, then practice using this tool, the more familiar we get with it! Thanks for your comment. Barbra

  6. I could relate to cancelling the subscription to your TV service. As many times as you are transferred, you must have your broken record response intact! I got out of mine, too.
    Thank you for the specific guidelines. I love the way you make your message so concise. I can remember it after I read it……recalling and utilizing the strategy when I need it. VERY helpful!

  7. Pingback: How to end a toxic relationship - Going Uncomplicated

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