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How to say NO to others in order to say YES to yourself: Mastering the art of mindful refusal.

In a world where saying "yes" is often seen as a virtue of having an abundance of energy, the power of "no" is vastly underestimated. The ability to say no to others, to set boundaries, and to prioritize your own needs is not just a form of self-care—it's a necessity for your mental, emotional, and even physical well-being.


However, declining requests or offers from others can feel quite challenging or even scary, especially if we fear that in doing so we’re hurting the feelings of others, potentially damaging our relationships, or missing out on opportunities (FOMO).


In this blog post, we’ll explore how it is possible to say no with honesty and gratitude, using a mindful version of the constructive feedback sandwich, that I have coined with the term The Mindful Refusal Sandwich —giving thanks, declining, and expressing gratitude/appreciation—to communicate our boundaries in a positive and respectful manner.


Why it is important to be able to say NO.


Before diving into the how, it's crucial to understand why it is so important that you’re able to safeguard yourself, your energy, and your boundaries by having the ability to say no. Saying no is essential for several reasons:


Self-care and well-being - Continuously saying yes to others at the expense of your own needs can lead to stress, burnout, and resentment. Saying no allows you to take care of yourself first.


Preservation of time and energy - Your time and energy are finite resources, and you only have so much available each day. Saying no helps ensure that you’re spending them on what truly matters to you.


Personal integrity and authenticity - Saying no to things that don't align with your values, goals, or interests helps you live more authentically and build a life that reflects who you truly are.


Healthy boundaries – Being able to say no, is a fundamental aspect of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries, which are critical for healthy relationships.


illustration text No thanks but


How to Say NO - The Mindful Refusal Sandwich.


The Mindful Refusal Sandwich is a compassionate and respectful way to decline requests or offers. It’s a 3-step action, that allows you to say no while acknowledging the offer and the person extending it.

Here are the 3 steps included:


Give Thanks.


Start with a positive note by thanking the person for their request or offer. This shows appreciation for their thoughtfulness and acknowledges the effort or courage it might have taken for them to reach out. Example: "Thank you for thinking of me..." or “I’m really glad you asked me…”


Decline.


After expressing thanks, clearly and directly state your decision to decline. It's important to be honest yet tactful—there's no need to over-explain or justify your decision, a simple no will do. Keeping it simple and straightforward is key. Example: "...however, it’s a no this time…" Or “…but I’m going to pass on this…”


Express Gratitude/Appreciation.


Conclude with a statement of gratitude or appreciation. This reinforces the positive aspects of the interaction and leaves the conversation on a good note. Example: "...but I really appreciate that you considered me for this." Or “…but I appreciate that you thought of me.”


illustration saying no with compassion


Here are some ways this would work.


Here is an example of using this approach in the workspace.


Scenario - A colleague asks if you can take on an extra project.

Response - "Thank you for trusting me with this opportunity. But I'm currently focused on other priorities and won't be able to take on additional work at the moment. But I appreciate that you thought of me for this project."


Using it in a social context.


Scenario - A friend invites you to an event you're not interested in attending.

Response - "I'm really glad you thought of me, but I'm going to pass on this. However, I would love to catch up another time."


In a family context.


Scenario - A family member asks for a favor you don’t feel like doing.

Response - "Thank you for reaching out to me. Unfortunately, I can't commit to this right now, but I'm grateful that we can rely on each other, so maybe there's another way I can support you."


Saying NO with both confidence and compassion.


Saying no with honesty and gratitude is not just about protecting your own time and energy—it's about fostering positive and respectful relationships with others as well as yourself.


You need to recognize that saying no is a way to practice self-compassion and that it's okay to prioritize your own needs - this doesn’t make you selfish or uncaring. You have the right to express your needs and boundaries, but in doing so you should always remember to do it with respect, and without infringing on the rights of others.


When you show that you've heard and understood the request or offer before declining, you acknowledge the other person and that helps them feel seen and respected, and if possible, you can always end your no by suggesting an alternative solution or compromise that could work for both of you.


Like any skill, saying no takes practice. Start with smaller, less challenging situations and work your way up. As you do this, you’ll experience that the consequences of your saying no might not be as scary or bad as you thought and that all it takes is really just that you listen to yourself and practice self-compassion by respecting your own time, energy, and boundaries and use The Mindful Refusal Sandwich. 😊

Disclaimer

The information found in this blog post is for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for a health professional's advice. If you are struggling with health issues please seek professional help. The use of any information provided in this blog post is solely at your own risk.


Author Mette Rosenqvist


she/her

With 10 years of supporting women release and manage emotional and physical pain to achieve optimal health, Mette is the seasoned coach and blogger behind MeRoyoga, a Holistic Health website. Dedicated to empowering women of all ages and backgrounds, her work is based on cultivating mind-body awareness and self-regulation through compassionate inquiry. As a Multi passionate coach, Mette incorporates several healing modalities to create bespoken sessions prioritizing inclusion, meaning, and accessibility and thrives on helping women discover all the choices available to them so they can build trust and safety in themselves, and move through life present, centered, and empowered.




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