How To Say No Is Really About Setting Boundaries

The main reason why it’s so challenging to say no is because it’s difficult to set boundaries. That’s exactly what saying no to someone really is. They’re asking you to do something and for whatever reason, you aren’t in a position to address their needs. Wondering how to say no without feeling bad about it? Here are 4 tips that will help set boundaries when it comes to saying no.

Make It Their Decision

On many occasions, someone (like your boss) will ask you to do something but you already have a long list of items that you’re already working on. There’s an expectation that whenever this person asks you to do something, that you should drop everything and address this request right away. There’s also a secondary expectation that this is your boss and they won’t accept no for an answer. Rather than saying no, use a priority list to have them decide when this request should be addressed. When you ask them where you should fit this new task in with everything else, you’re giving them the ability to define priority. You’re also reminding them that there is a long list of items to address and that dropping everything to accommodate a potentially low-priority item isn’t feasible.

Give Yourself Space

If a person asks you to do something and you’re not sure if you’re able to address, let them know that you’ll check and get back to them. This gives you time to determine if you’re able to accomplish the task and also relieves you of the pressure of having to respond right away. Take your time making the decision and give yourself the breathing room to do so comfortably.


Sometimes you’re asked to do something and you either don’t want to or don’t know how to. You may think that you can figure it out and address the person’s needs, but you aren’t completely comfortable. Rather than take the task on or say no, find someone else who can and send the task their way. Doing this communicates no and helpfulness at the same time.

Be Direct

If you receive a request and don’t know how to address it, are too busy, can’t meet their expectation, or simply don’t want to do what’s being asked, simply say no. There’s no need to apologize or give an excuse. The person who’s asking you to do something has no idea what your boundaries are. It’s your responsibility to manage and maintain your own boundaries, so feel free to say no and don’t feel bad about doing so.

What other tools do you use to set your own boundaries and say no to requests? Would you consider attending a leadership training course to help you say no and set boundaries? Let us know in the comments below.