July 26, 2015

The Fine Art of Giving Good “No.”


We all have to say no from time to time, but what if we could stay connected and friendly, and essentially keep an open heart while we’re turning someone down?

Giving good no is being able to set a boundary, to say no, yet still be on the same side with someone. It is all about fostering cooperation, communication and connection while taking care of both our need for connection and our need to decline. Saying no with kindness keeps the door open. In addition, there is something special about coming from a place of holding both of our needs as equally important.

Why would we want to give good no? If we want to cultivate and sustain relationships, it behooves us to create an atmosphere of friendliness, kindness, cooperation and mutuality. Although people move a lot these days and don’t mind emotionally “killing off” others, personally, I treasure my friendships and prefer the former.

How to give good no:

Giving good no is a skill that we can learn. One question I ask myself is: what does the other person need right now? I’m assuming a need for connection on both parts because the other person usually won’t ask me for something unless that person wants some kind of connection.

Bad no, is, at its worst, an abrupt end to a conversation, or even a relationship. The energy drops; it gets flat. I don’t know about you, but I love rich and juicy connections and their upward spiral of energy. At its best, bad no is a way to assert our boundaries.

Skills required to give good no:

An ability to empathize
An ability to set boundaries
An ability to ask for what we want and need
An ability to contact our own inner longing
An ability to give and receive appreciation

An example of bad no:

Them: “Hey, I would love to go to the movies with you tonight.”

Us: “I can’t.”

An example of good no:

Them: “Hey, I would love to go to the movies with you tonight.”

Us: “Wow, thanks for asking. I would also love to go to the movies with you, but I already have plans tonight. How about tomorrow night?”

How to give good “no” at a glance:

1. Acknowledge and appreciate the request. (I did that with a “wow” in my example.)
2. Express how you authentically feel.
3. Decline the request.
4. Make a counter offer.


1. Getting stuck or not knowing how to say no/decline.

Why do some people say nothing when they mean no? Maybe they don’t know how to say no, or they feel uncomfortable with saying no in some way. What they don’t realize is that it’s perfectly all right to say no.

2. Too many choices, learning discretion.

We need to learn how to say no when we need to. Life is full of choices; we cannot possibly do everything (or everyone). We have to choose. The ancient yoga teachings tell us that we have to cultivate discretion and discernment. Besides, when we say no to something or someone, we’re actually saying yes to something else. It is not a negative thing to say no, especially when we consider everyone in the equation.

3. Not knowing how to empathize/not being present in the moment.

Slow down into that moment and connect with yourself and the other person. Let go of your agenda and take a few breaths as you feel your body.

The only thing left is to do the good work in the world and go out there and spread the love by practicing giving good no. Please comment below and let me know how it goes.



Author: Darci Frankel

Editor: Evan Yerburgh

Image: Flickr


Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Darci Frankel