How and Why To Say No


Post written by contributing writer, Kat.

We live in an age of constant communication and abounding options. Stay at home moms are not isolated anymore. We have countless opportunities to get involved in church, the community and online.

While there are many benefits to our connectedness, there is also a greater need for us to become adept at knowing when and how to say no.

Today, instead of hearing about a friend’s need thought the occasional phone call, we get every forwarded email, we read every blog post about everyone we have ever (or never) met who needs our help.
For our own well being and for the sake of our families, we must learn the fine art of gracious decision making. Here are a few tips:

Never Give An Immediate Yes

Consider making no your default. If something particularly strikes you, tell them you’ll pray and talk to your husband about it, but do not take on a new responsibility without stepping away from it first.

Have a Plan

Knowing what you want makes it a lot easier to decide when and how to say no. This is why having a mission statement is so vital, because it is a constant reminder of our priorities and acts as a bouncer toward all uninvited opportunity that could distract us from our most important responsibilities.

Decide and Be Done With It

We can neither live with the burden of extra responsibilities nor the weight of guilt from turning them down. We must be able to decide and be done with it. Don’t wonder, worry or whither.
Being able to say no is absolutely essential to living a balanced and well organized life.
If you’ve measured it against your mission statement and goals, evaluated whether it fits in your schedule, if you’ve discussed it with your husband and if you’ve prayed about it, your direction should feel pretty clear. Be confident in your choice.

Practice: Repeat After Me

“Thank you so much for asking me but I’m trying to honor my family with my time and I don’t think this is something I can commit to right now.”

You might need to practice it one or five hundred and sixty two times before it feels comfortable enough to actually say. That’s alright. Keep practicing.

Make An Exit Plan

Maybe you’re reading this post and kicking yourself (please stop, that hurts) because just the other day you said yes to something you shouldn’t have.

Don’t worry, you’re not stuck. You just need to make an exit plan.

While often even harder than saying no, others understand and are even inspired when someone is brave enough to say, “I overcommitted and need to step back for the sake of my family.”

Conclusion: It’s Really OK to Say No

As women, we often want to help wherever we see a need and especially if asked, well of course, we can’t let them down. But God has a plan for you and just because someone asked for your help doesn’t make them part of that plan.

We need to remember that it is ok to say no. We are not letting anyone down, we are doing the best thing for our families and giving someone else an opportunity to serve.

Is it easy or hard for you to say no? Is there anything you need to say no to today?

About Kat

Kat blogs at Inspired To Action, a site dedicated to helping moms develop the habits and skills they need to effectively manage their homes and raise children who are prepared to change the world. Kat and her husband Jimmy live the great state of Texas and have 3 children ages 7, 5 and 2. Kat loves music, running, technology, Jesus and Tex-Mex food. Not necessarily in that order.

40 Responses to How and Why To Say No

  1. sales team February 4, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.

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  2. Bianca October 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this article. I just learned that it’s ok to say “no”. :-)

  3. Dana @ Cooking at Cafe D February 20, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Well, is say yes to this post!

    If you haven’t read it already, the Boundaries book from Dr. Henry Cloud is excellent. Basically he focuses on how letting your no mean no allows for time enough to let your yeses mean yes.

  4. rebecca, who can say no (and yes) February 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Bravo. It’s took me years to learn to pace myself. BALANCE.

    I had five kids in 7 years and would feel tremendous guilt if I turned down ANY service opportunity when they were all little. I’m sure that the Lord appreciated it, but often I would feel completely drained when I came home and was a *worse* mother for my own family. I certainly don’t think that is what He wants either. Now that they are older, I’m in a season where I can give more of myself without sacrificing my own family’s needs.

    Of course, I do agree with Amy and get a little ruffled when I hear the others at church say no ALL THE TIME because “family comes first.” We’ve all got families, and service does bless them. I know it’s a fine line between taken out of your comfort zone and making some sacrifices for the *benefit of growth* vs. complete burnout, and that’s where I think your “pray about it” idea is brilliant.

  5. Lori February 20, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    I just wondered what are you saying “No” to? Going to McDonalds with the other mom’s and kids? Saying no to that is fine. How about saying no to nursery at church if you really can’t stand other people’s children. That can be perfectly acceptable.
    Let’s touch on when we should say “Yes”. My sister is handicapped and can’t leave her house because she has no immune system. She has a very active four year old son and her husband has his hands full with work, helping with their son, and running to constant appointments with my sister.
    We have had very little luck(I should say they have) with churches being willing to help them. Or it is for a short time, then the good christians feel as if they are “done” helping. This is an ongoing sickness that will be with my sister forever. There are no time limits or days off for her.
    What is the answer to them? They need to hear some yesses. Also, if everyone would help once a month with a meal or cleaning help, there would be little burden on anyone. Just a thought.

    • Denise February 20, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      Doesn’t she qualify for any social services? and every Catholic high school and confirmation program in my area has teens volunteering for 20-40 service hours a year. has she contacted a youth ministry program? or what about paying a trusted teen to help with little one and run errands after school? i hope she finds some help soon, this sounds bigger than asking people to make meals and help clean.

      • Lori February 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

        Thanks for your input Denise. My sister basically is not qualified for much in the way of government help. She is on disability but that helps with bills and meds. Because she is “young”, at 40, she doesn’t qualify for any home help through the gov’t. We are, because of a dear family friend, getting people to volunteer to come and help with their little one and with errands as well as just visiting with my sister. Thanks again for your words of advice. I will remember that-teens can be a huge help and are often overlooked!

  6. DJ February 4, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    “Thank you so much for asking me but I’m trying to honor my family with my time and I don’t think this is something I can commit to right now.”

    I love that response. It is so graceful. I could use some help in that department.

  7. Jaclyn February 4, 2011 at 6:32 am #

    Have you read the book “Boundaries”? Excellent book written all about saying “no”! A great read for those of use who just can’t say no. Thanks for the blog- we mommies need to be reminded that it’s ok and even necessary to say no!

  8. Amie February 2, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Thanks for the great reminder and a gracious way to say, “NO.”

  9. wendi February 1, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    It is hard for me to say no to a certain couple we like to hang out with but realistically we can’t every weekend(they want to both days!) I have a hard time saying no and they don’t even get what’s it all about with having kids. I was the same way but I would never make someone feel bad about not being to hang out or having to leave early because their child needs to go to bed. I try to look at their point of view but man it is hard! I was never that way before kids but everyone is different and come from different places. If a no thank you doesn’t cut it then nothing will and I have learned this.

  10. Amy Clark February 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I know this post was about OVER commitment, so I’m not disagreeing with the author, but I think there are many people who UNDER commit. Yes, they may take on too much with others for their family to be able to handle, but many times they are not serving the Lord enough.

    I am a pastor’s wife with three littles that are homeschooled. I know what it is like to be busy. But many woman who come to me complaining of busyness are doing very little to absolutely nothing to serve the Lord in their local church. What are they so busy with?? Is it helping friends? Volunteering in school? I’m not sure. What I know is this: if you are not serving the Lord in your assembly then you are not busy enough – regardless of how busy you think you are.

    Serving the Lord requires sacrifice for the whole family. Our children should see AND experience that sacrifice. I’m not talking about overcommitting to the point that we are not fruitful wives or mothers (which this post was about), or working to the point of exhaustion. But many woman use their families as an excuse not to get involved in their church to the extent that they should be. We have to invest ourselves in the Lord’s work, littles or no. In doing so, we will reap eternal reward for all in our family.

    • KMM February 17, 2011 at 11:01 am #


      You sound really burnt out. I believe your example will inspire those with good hearts to serve more. Maybe you should read Luke 10:38-42

      38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
      41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

    • Kerri February 20, 2011 at 6:57 am #

      I agree with you, Amy! I do not disagree with the author; we MUST take care of our families. But as a homeschooling mom with a chronic neuromuscular disease, I always need help. Whether I had a child or not, I would need help. My family is scattered, and we have been pretty much left in the cold by the 4 churches we have been members of in the last 11 years while I have been sick.

      I was asked by a pastor’s wife recently, “How much is enough?” I was too stunned to reply, but my thought was,”How much was enough for Jesus? When did he stop serving? Healing?”

      I totally get that many women overcommit to the detriment of their families. But many people so nothing, as has been my experience. I do what I can from home, and every church I’ve been involved in I am always serving.

      Matthew 25:37-40: “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    • Jen February 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

      I have to agree with you Amy. I am a church choir director, and a leader in a non-profit organization, and my biggest frustration comes with people who expect that services will be provided, but do not want to help in their provision. “Someone else will come along” is a nice thought, but if everyone thought that way, no one would ever do. Yes, there is the example of Martha and Mary, but Jesus also said (Matthew 5) “should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” This was the gospel today. As Christians we are CALLED to be better than, go further than, love more than all others. We sell ourselves short, and quite frankly, I believe, ignore our calling, when we are content to stay in our own little comfy world. I have three children, and I am confident that what they are learning, by having parents who volunteer much and give just as much as they can, is that we should always put others first. I could stay at home and tell them this, or I can go out into the world and show them this.

  11. heidi @ wonder woman wannabe February 1, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Good word, Kat! I love that quote you shared! :)

  12. Sarah February 1, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    The Father must really want me to believe Him that it is ok to say No. Thanks for the reminder that His plan for us doesn’t involve doing everything or serving everyone, just those He has for us.

  13. Ashley Pichea February 1, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    “Consider making no your default.”

    I recently was ‘pressured’ into saying ‘yes’ to something without taking the time to seriously think about it. After about a week, my husband and I finally had time to talk about the commitment and pray about it, and we decided that I need to step down. It was very difficult to approach the parties involved and inform them that I’d said ‘yes’ too quickly. How much easier if I had said ‘no’ in the first place, or asked for time to pray and discuss it with my husband.

    Thank you, Kat, for this timely reminder!

  14. WAPharmGirl February 1, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    I cannot stress how true this is. Stretching myself too thin led to health problems. Stress. I had a health issue where I was TOLD to slow down and rest. I kept trying to go at breakneck speed and it almost cost me my mental health. Now I am very careful about the choices I make. I won’t go through that again.

  15. Kristin J. February 1, 2011 at 5:40 am #

    I just found your blog last night and I really needed to read this post! Thank you for that :)

  16. Kristen January 31, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    Someone once told me, “When you say yes to something that you cannot give your all to, you’re stealing that opportunity from someone who can. There’s nothing shameful about saying, ‘If it were the only thing on my plate, I’d love to, but I wouldn’t be able to give it my best, so I think it may be a job for someone else.’” It’s so easy for me to forget that – my dad always told me, “You’re a smart kid, but your heart is bigger than your brain.” LOL. I always wanted to help people, whether it was logistically possible or not…something I’m still learning to stop and think clearly about..

  17. Donna Perugini January 31, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    This is an age old dilemna. There’s more to saying, ‘no’ than just one word and walking away. Before you come across the people who ask you for something, you need to be able to be fearless…’the fear of man is a snare’. If you are a pleaser so you can be accepted by people or groups, you’ll be saying ‘yes’ to much or everything. The same is true if you’re fearful of how you’ll be accepted if you decline.

  18. Journey11 January 31, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    Oh boy, I may have to pass this on to my hubby! This is good advice for everyone. He really struggles with decisions like this even after we’ve talked it to death and prayed about it, especially the guilt aspect of saying no and leaving it at that.

  19. Heather January 31, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    This was a wonderful post. Thank you so much. Recently I had to back out of something that I had said yes to earlier. I wish I would have read this post before I committed to it, but still I’m able to not feel guilty about backing out either.
    Thanks again.

  20. Amy Walker January 31, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    Awesome post! It’s so crazy I posted about this today too here:

    I’ve been thinking about it a lot today and will be sharing more about it next week. Being a people pleaser and having a hard time saying no has been one of my biggest struggles…recently however, I’ve found myself drawing too many boundaries sometimes…

    Only in sitting at Jesus’ feet can we know when to say no and yes!!!

  21. Cindy January 31, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this. I just said no to a friend the other day, and have been feeling horrible about it, but I’ve been so busy lately and I’m pregnant, I didn’t feel I could take on the other thing. So thank you…..

    Cindy Kyle

  22. Laryssa @Heaven In The Home January 31, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. I’m trying hard to not be a “yes (wo) man”. I can see how measuring requests up against our mission statement will really help!

  23. debbie January 31, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    I have been so released by the reminder of a wise woman in my life that just because a need exists doesn’t mean I need to meet it. There are others who can (and maybe should!) step up to the plate. And by saying ‘no’ I allow others the joy and blessing of serving.

  24. shannon January 31, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    good list, but I disagree that you should flake out if you overcommit. we need to be women of our word and the very best way to make sure that we don’t overcommit routinely is to fulfill our obligations and be wiser the next time. let your yes be yes.

    • Kat @ Inspired To Action February 1, 2011 at 10:48 am #

      I think we’re on the same page, just looking at it a bit differently.

      I definitely don’t think we should flake out. We need ensure a smooth transition of our responsibilities. But I do think that if we over commit to something, the yes we said to our husbands and our children takes priority over any other role we say yes to.

      So if we agree to something that we cannot do well without it hurting us or our families, we need to be bold enough to say that we over committed and find a way out that works for everyone.

      Flaking out is not an option, but responsibly backing out for the sake of our family – is.

      Same page?

      • shannon February 2, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

        i think so. i’ve found though that when most people are backing out they don’t attempt to get their responsibilities covered.

        thanks for your post.

  25. rachel g January 31, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    TOTALLY agree. I say “no” a lot, and I know I’m happier and healthier because of it. I tell other women all the time similar advice to what you gave here. You go, girl!

  26. Sarah January 31, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Thanks for the encouragement and helpful advice! With Baby #1 on the way and planning to homeschool I am praying for wisdom to know the balance between getting enough quality family time and yet giving our child(ren) a healthy amount of interaction with friends, family, and others outside the home. I know the balance is different for each family in every stage of life and the Lord will help us figure that out for our own family.

  27. Reese January 31, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    Thanks for this great post. I have always had a hard time saying no. I tend to just hope no one will ask, which has worked lately but that’s probably just because I’m pregnant.

  28. Bley January 31, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    Thank you so much for this post. I have two (very) young children and am expecting again, and I really struggle with my inability to participate in service for others. My husband works full time and is in a PhD program, and while he is a wonderful help to me, I want to honor him by respecting the little free time he has to do his school work and study. This means I cannot just leave the kids with him to go help someone else.

    I do try to help out though in ways that I can: either through organizing things via telephone or email for someone, or making meals to take to people. Those are a couple things I feel able to do while still caring for my family. My mom always reminds me that when you are a wife and mother, your first ministry and obligation is to your family, and if all else must fall by the way side, so be it.

  29. Daniella January 31, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    Thank you for this post! It is so true we need to have a balance, and know how to say no. I am so grateful for your previous post as well, about having a mission statement and specifically, writing out your roles (as mom, wife, daughter of the King, educator, etc!) and writing out specific ways to fill those roles. I made a list of all of my roles I am/hope to be, and then I wrote 3 things under each role to help me fill those roles (this has especially helped on those days when I get down and discouraged, even depressed, and the list provides a tangible reminder of what I want to be doing with my time!!!! ) Thank you Lindsay!

    But yes, this post was great because often when I begin something new, I get excited and over-commit. For example, my husband and I have been praying about reaching out to friends and neighbors more, and just providing hospitality more and reaching out to the community, but now I look at this week’s schedule, and because I have gotten over-excited, we have play-dates, dinner dates, afternoon visits all week and I’m grateful for the reminder that it’s okay to say “NO”.
    And your example line about “honoring my family with my time”, thank you, that is a great way to put it. God bless all you ladies!

  30. Maura January 31, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Great suggestions on polite and honest ways to say NO. I think as women we try to please everyone and get sucked in by guilt.

    Do you have any suggestions for when it IS your family? Not your immediate family under your roof, but extended family (sisters, aunts, MIL, etc)?

  31. Rachel Parker January 31, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    I think this is such an important message, especially for women, because we’re so prone to the desire to take care of other people that we often forget about ourselves. In fact, I recently wrote on this, too, concentrating on how to pick out what the top priorities are in your life and saying no to what doesn’t fit in:

    I love hearing what other people think about this, and encouraging our community to think carefully about the commitments we bring into our life. The last thing we want is a life full of filler that pushes out the “good” stuff. A mouthful, but incredibly true!

    Grown Up Rachel

  32. Sarah M January 31, 2011 at 4:59 am #

    excellent post. I need to read this everyday. I am a chronic ‘yay-sayer’ and it burns me out every time. I definitely go through cycles where saying “no” is easier, and some where I find myself thinking, “How did I get myself into this overloaded situation?!” It can happen very quickly!

    Thanks for the good reminder.


  33. Damara January 31, 2011 at 3:14 am #

    Thank you for this post. It is so true-we feel committed to be involved with so many things. It really is important to learn when to say no.