How To Say No

When we are humans that care deeply and are in the helping profession, it can be really hard to say no. Usually, our initial reaction when someone asks us for something is to always offer help. This comes from a place of not wanting to let anyone down and wanting to be there for everyone that we can.

This can become overwhelming at times, especially when we say yes to helping with too many things and find ourselves stretched too thin. 

When I was working in Colorado, I had a charge nurse who would always come to work very in charge and confident. I'll never forget when she told me one day that she loved telling people no. 

I was dumbfounded by this and didn't get it. As someone who had struggled with saying no at the time, it was difficult to wrap my head around. Her advice to me was to continue practicing it over and over again so that in time it would become easier.

I realized I needed to say no more after I spent too much time putting everyone else's needs first, and always feeling behind.

I've gotten better at this through the years and the number one thing that has helped me is:

Think about what you're going to say ahead of time! 

When someone asks you to pick up a shift, switch days, or work overtime, make sure you have a line scripted out ahead of time that you can use. 

Some of my favorites are: 

  • "Let me check my schedule"
  • "I'm not sure, I'll get back to you"
  • "I already have a plan, thank you so much for asking. Can you let me know next time?" 

The key with these little one-liners is that they buy you time. Often we get caught saying yes because we feel like we have to give an answer on the spot. Buying yourself time is key to solve this! 

It is also important to think about how doing whatever you are being asked to do will make you feel. Answer from this place. Maybe it’s in regards to overtime or a family situation. Practice a one liner that buys you some time to stop and think about this. 

Something that is key to remember: you never have to apologize for saying no. There is also no need to defend your answer. You are allowed to say no and that is enough. When we find ourselves defending our "no", it can open the door for people up to say more and try to convince us. 

Key takeaways

1. Script out a one liner you can use and practice saying it.

2. Use this one liner the next time you feel the urge to say yes, but deep down you really want to say no.

3. Give yourself space to think about how you want to feel and respond to the request accordingly.

4. Don't apologize for saying no and don't defend your answer.

5. Practice, practice, practice!

Do you struggle with saying no? Leave a comment below with the one-liner you're going to use going forward!


This resource was written by the founder of Nurses Inspire Nurses, Cat Golden. Working as a pediatric nurse for seven years, Cat knew firsthand what it was like to feel exhausted and isolated. She knew she was not alone and that many of her coworkers felt the same way. This is why Nurses Inspire Nurses exists; to support nurses ashumans first, and nurses second. 

2 Responses

Ginny Orcutt
Ginny Orcutt

February 02, 2022

This retired nurse did not learn the art of saying “No” till late in life. It is a wonderful feeling of freedom!
Practice makes perfect!

Laura Corich
Laura Corich

February 02, 2022

I have learned that “NO” can be a complete sentence!

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.