How to Say “No” to Stress Overload with Higher Ed EAP

When you have more requests than you have time or bandwidth, you run the risk of stress overload or burnout. To avoid this, you need to be skilled at the art of saying no. It's an important part of self-care, but most of us hate to say “no,” particularly when the asker is a loved one or an authority figure. It’s human nature to want to be polite, helpful, and cooperative. We don’t want to disappoint people. We don’t want people to think less of us. We want to avoid conflict and guilt. 

Here are strategies to help you get better at saying a guilt-free “no”: 
  1. Practice. Start with saying no to small things and work your way up. 
  2. Listen and be sure you understand the request. Ask for details to make an informed decision and show you take the request seriously. 
  3. Say “no” right away if you are sure, but if not, buy yourself time: "Let me check my schedule"; “Let me check with my boss/spouse”; "Ask me again on Monday. “
  4. Assess the request in terms of your commitments and priorities. Who is making the request? When is it due? 
  5. Be direct, simple, respectful, and timely when you say no. Avoid vagueness or leaving doors open for negotiation. 
  6. Don't overly apologize or overly explain your “no.”
  7. Thank the person for thinking of you/including you. It’s just polite and softens the “no.” 
  8. Be prepared for attempts to persuade/negotiate - stick to your decision. Plan whether you could or would agree if certain conditions were met. 
For more on getting good at saying no, consider these EAP tools: 
  1. Call your EAP Coach/Counselor to ask for help getting better at saying no. Just call 800-252-4555 24/7/365.
  2. Log in to the member site at and visit the training center for: Communication Toolkit: The Art of Saying No | Course Code: SVL_1020337
  3. Search for resources on these related topics: Assertiveness, time management, setting priorities, establishing boundaries.

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For more information, contact Blythe Josovitz, Director, Benefits & Comp. / x.2995 /