Episode 22: How to CONFIDENTLY say NO

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Do you struggle with saying no? Are you prone to people-pleasing and saying yes more times than you can count? Do you want to learn how to say no confidently and guilt-free? In this episode, I walk you through three tips to help you say no, be able to get what you really, really want and actually strengthen your relationships. Tune in!

I’m Hannah Coles and you are listening to the Confidence Catalyst Podcast episode 22: How to confidently say NO

Welcome back everyone! I hope you’re having a fantastic day. I am. Today is my birthday so super happy over here. I’ve been working a ton getting things all set and ready for you all to join the coolest and rewarding monthly group, the Catalyst membership. 

Be a part of something AMAZING

There are so many good things that I have in store for you I can’t wait to show it all to you! Think about how your life would change for the better if you had access to a coach helping you each step of the way? How your countenance would just light up being able to spend time each day specifically focused on building and strengthening your confidence? Think about how your relationships would transform if you could really overcome your insecurities and fear. We focus on all this and more in the community. So, come check it out. Information is on my website, thecatalystcoaching.com– go check it out, it’s amazing!

Okay, let’s dive into today’s topic:

Saying NO

A lot of us that struggle with our own self-esteem and self-worth generally have this one thing in common. Saying no is a difficult feat. But when you fail to say no and end up saying yes to so many things that you don’t really want to do it can be very damaging to your relationship with yourself and your self-esteem.  So today I want to walk you through three things that will help you be able to say NO more confidently and build instead of break your self-esteem. 

I know you’ve all been in this spot before. Someone made a request of you and instantly you feel this lump in your throat and queasiness in your stomach. You do NOT want to say yes but how can you say NO?

Can I stay indefinitely?

An old friend called recently and asked to stay at our house for an extended period of time. There was a job for work near us and why not ask if it could save them money, right? So when I got this text instantly I felt those icky feelings. My inner voice SCREAMED NO. My mind raced with reasons and excuses why this wouldn’t work out, we don’t really have a spare room so where would we put this person? We were going to be in and out a lot. We weren’t super close anymore. Friends, yes but we hadn’t seen or talked to each other in years and I wasn’t really comfortable having this person stay. But how did I say no when I didn’t really have a “good excuse”? (you know the “good ones” – Oh, sorry, we’re out of town – that’s always an easy out).

Three options

I figured I had three options:

1.) I could say yes simply because saying no would be too uncomfortable and I wouldn’t want him to “feel bad” aka “hurt his feelings” but in this case, i’d be the one feeling terrible and resentful for saying yes when I didn’t mean it.

2.) Option 2, I could say no and then feel bad afterward because he’d be disappointed and to save myself from further discomfort offer a quick alternative to something else I didn’t really want to do.

3.) I could say no and NOT feel bad about it.


Options 1 & 2 are terrible options

Here’s the thing, you have to check the reality of options 1 & 2. If you say YES to avoid conflict and discomfort from THEM but you don’t really MEAN it – you’re people-pleasing, you’re LYING to them and you’re not skipping the conflict and discomfort part either. In fact, you’ve now awakened the full-on wrath of your INNER YOU. There’s going to be conflict and discomfort alright only it’s inner turmoil and you can’t run from that one.

Same with offering the quick alternative. If you really don’t want to do it or have any part of it, it’s OKAY. A huge part of confidence is embracing the relationship you have with yourself. Knowing and Embracing YOU – all the parts of you! Even the parts of you that have no desire to say yes to this. 

Confidence is knowing and embracing ALL of you

Own it. Embrace it and SAY OUT OF THEIR HEAD. Don’t play mind reader and think, “they’re going to be mad at me. They won’t understand. They’ll ask questions and I don’t have a “good enough” reason. Listen, the fact that you DON’T WANT ANY PART OF IT – is good enough in and of itself.

They don’t have to understand. They probably won’t – even, no, especially when you try to explain yourself and offer excuses and reasons why you can’t. This is a bad practice. Your wants and desires are worthy of attention. They don’t have to understand your reasons.

Favorite NO

Here’s my favorite NO, “I love you so much and it’s a no”

That’s it.

Isn’t that beautiful.

They can ask questions. They might. It’s okay because you don’t have to answer them. I’m not saying ignore them or plug your ears. I’m saying, the answer is still, “I love you but no”. 

We don’t want to say no because we make it mean that we’ll be the “bad guy” but what if there didn’t have to be a bad guy at all? What if you were the superhero for honoring you and your wishes. Each time you say yes when you really want to say no, you’re telling yourself that you’re not as important as they are. It’s putting you down each time. How do you think that affects the relationship you have with yourself? 

What if you had your own back?

Not so good. But what if you stood up for yourself each and every time? What if you were able to be clear about your boundaries and protect those unflinchingly? How do you think that’d affect your relationship with yourself? Much better right?

Okay, I have a few tips to be able to say no more effectively – guilt-free. Ready?

Do the thought work!

1.) Understand what you’re feeling. If you FEAR saying no ask yourself why. What are you making that mean about you? Why do you think you need to say yes? If you said yes, how would you feel? And What do you really want?

I know I just gave you a bunch of questions so let’s break it down. Check your motives, are they fear-based or out of love? 

How do you know if they’re out of love or fear? If it’s a service project for the church and I really don’t want to go but think I NEED to go or it’ll make me a “bad person” then that’s fear-based. Not the best reason to serve. But if I can say yes because I want to help, because I want to be the kind of person that helps and it feels good to say yes, even if the work isn’t going to be fun, then that’s love based.

You’ll know if it’s love based because it’ll feel like love. It won’t come with a side of anxiety and guilt.

What are you making it mean?

Check-in and find out what you’re making the yes or no mean about you. Are you thinking that if I say no, it’ll mean I’m a selfish person? Is that true? Can you prove it? Do you judge others that say no as selfish as well? 

Sometimes we think the worst of people, not the people themselves but the worst in that they’re thinking the worst of us. They’re going to think horrible things about me and I can’t have that or … wait, why can’t they think what they want to about you?

Think about that, why do you worry about what they’re going to THINK in their own quiet heads, about you? We really fear the feeling of discomfort and guilt. We sometimes transfer responsibility to them as if they had that much power. But they can’t make you feel anything. Your feelings come from your thoughts. 

You make you uncomfortable

The only reason it’s uncomfortable is because you’re making it uncomfortable. You’re choosing to think, believe, and entertain thoughts that create discomfort and guilt for you. If you don’t like it, you are the only one that has the power to change that.

Pause and ask yourself what you really, really want? In this case a lot of the time it’s that the other person will understand. They’ll smile and say, “that’s okay, no problem!” And then you don’t have to feel an uncomfortable feeling, right? But their positive, understanding reply isn’t what you deep down really want. What you really want is to feel understood.

Only you need to understand

Guess what? That’s not their job. They don’t have to understand you, only YOU have to understand. What you really want is a feeling. You get to steer your ship in whatever direction you want. 

Guilt is optional. 

So a lot of this thought work needs time to process. You need time to understand if you want to say yes or no. Time to check your motives. Time to hear yourself out and decide what you really really want. And all this is difficult when someone is looking at you expectantly waiting for your reply, right? 

Commit to giving yourself time

So here’s a tip that I like to offer. It’s saved me on so many occasions. I try to never answer on the spot. When you answer on the spot you’re not actually using your prefrontal cortex – the part of your brain that’s for high reasoning and critical decision making. So instead ask them this, “Hey, can you text me about it or email so I can check the calendar later and see what’s going on?”

This way it buys you time to think it over, to see if your yes stems from love or if it’s leaning towards fear. Fear that they’ll judge you if you say no. Do your thought work and get really clean on what you want, what you really, really want. 

Check with the CEO

Taking the time to do this, to check in with yourself builds trust within. It’s saying to yourself, I need to check in with the boss and get expert feedback. We wouldn’t make huge decisions for the company as a clerk. We’d need to check in with the CEO first. So give yourself that time. 

Even if they say I need an answer NOW, there’s still time. For me, if you need an answer now its generally a no but if you give me a few minutes to check with the schedule, to think for a moment you might get a different answer.

Teach yourself, show yourself that you are important. That your needs, your preferences are important. Book a meeting asap with your inner counsel and get really clean and clear on what you want.


2.) PLAN ahead of time. This makes it easier sometimes than needing to schedule impromptu sessions with yourself. So if you can do a lot of leg work ahead of time, all the better. I know you can’t plan for all incoming requests, some requests are just plain weird and you never thought you’d be asked that question so how can you possibly prepare for things like that? 

Easy. The more clear you are on what your goals are the easier it is to say no to things that don’t align with that goal. Write your goals out – big goals, small goals, weekly goals, daily goals. The clearer you are the better. 

Articulate your goals

Samin Nosrat once said, “When I take the time to articulate what it is that I hope to achieve, it’s simple to refer to the list and see whether saying yes to an opportunity will take me toward or away from achieving that goal. It’s when I’m fuzzy about where I’m headed that I start to say yes to think willy-nilly. And I’ve been burned enough times by FOMO-based and ego-based decision making to know that I’ll always regret choosing to do something for the wrong reason.”

Be clear on what you want and clearer on your time frame. Then guard that time with your all. 

No story. The end

3.) They don’t need a story, no is enough. I know this is a hard one for a lot of you. It was hard for me too for a long time. We don’t want people to be mad at us or judge us or think that we’re bad people. So we want to offer something to them, some reasoning why we’re still good people and why they might understand. 

But here’s the truth, they’re most likely NOT going to understand. They asked for a reason. They want you to say yes. When you say no they’re not hearing all the reasons, they’re hearing NO. Then they’re in their own heads about, “Great, now what can I do? who can I ask? I really thought they’d say yes.”

So when you’re adding excuses and reasons all they’re hearing is their interpretation of that. They’re filtering it through their desires. Even if the story is very reasonable they still might find fault with it. So don’t add fuel to the fire. Don’t offer them more thoughts to add to their already spinning mind. Be kind and courteous and just reassure them that you love them but it’s still a no.

Be kind. Limit the thought drama

I say this is kind because when you add more reasoning to it you’re just giving them more thought drama to sort through and think about. Have you ever asked someone for something and they said no with a million excuses? Then it’s even more annoying because it’s not just the NO that you’re working through and who can you get to fill that request but now you’re sorting through their story, you’re trying to put yourself in their shoes and it just doesn’t make sense. You’re like, “really? THAT’S why you can’t help?” 

So not only are you disappointed that it’s no but now you’re annoyed at them as well and then they really are the bad guy in your eyes. Better end on a more tender note. 

Marie Kondo your reply

Say what’s necessary and leave the rest out it. Let them process the no however they want to but do share what’s important. For me, that’s how I feel about them, that’s why “I love you but no” is such a beautiful answer. It’s giving them the opportunity to think what they want to and what they will but you’re transparent. I want you to know that I love you but it’s no.

Saying NO is one the BEST things you can do for yourself

Learning to say no is one of the best things you can do for myself. You don’t have to fear rejection because rejection is a feeling – something you are in control of by what you’re choosing to think about it. They can be disappointed and you can still feel love towards them. No rejection necessary. Learning to say no also helps you feel empowered, free, and in control.

It takes preparation though. I was in a teacher development class once where the leader of the class taught us, “preparation precedes power” – this is true in every area of my life including being able to say no. You can strengthen your confidence in yourself and trust yourself to take care of you. The more you can honor your needs the more present you can be with others because when you do say yes, you’ll really mean it. They’ll know you really mean it and it invites that relationship to be up-leveled and strengthened.


So, practice this, get really good at learning to say no guilt-free. Remember the tips:

1.) You don’t have to answer on the spot. Ask them to text you – even if you’re home. I tend to get distracted and forget so if they text me then I can mull it over and take the proper time to think about it.

2.) Plan ahead of time. Get really clear on your goals, filter out anything that’s not in line with those goals. Remember, your goals are a valid reason to say no. Even if you’re still at home. Even if the reason isn’t one they’ll understand. They don’t have to understand as long as you understand.

And lastly, 3.) Leave the extras out of it. They don’t need a story. It’s kinder to leave the mind drama aside. I love you but no is a beautiful response.

Okay, that’s what I’ve got for you right now. Don’t forget to hop on my early bird pricing. It’s ridiculous how low the membership is! Believe me, it’s amazing and you’re going to want to jump in and be a part of this incredible community. Sign up on my website or any of my social media accounts.

Talk to you next week!



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