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Five ways to get past a ‘no’

As carers, we know all too well that ‘no’ is a big word when accessing support for the person we care for. Does that mean we should stop and take ‘no’ for an answer?

Illustration of two females negotiating at work.

We asked carers, “How do you get past a ‘no’?”. Not surprisingly, most of us simply didn’t know (pun not intended). Navigating the system, or in some cases our family relationships, is definitely not a breeze. Physically and emotionally.

We may find that not accepting when a family member tells us ‘no’ can be a result of carer burnout and come with strong feelings of guilt - something that is normal and we shouldn’t be ashamed of.

For some carers who did manage to get past their first ‘no’, they emphasised the importance of taking that one extra step, and not taking things at face value.

Here are five top tips they shared.

1. Give ourselves a moment to reflect

In most cases, it can be difficult to remain calm and step back. Especially when we want the best for the person we care for. Or, if we’ve prepared and waited so long for this moment. But we also need to remind ourselves that emotions can really affect our decision making.

Carers have shared that stepping back to reflect helps with clarity, and seeing the broader picture - which is often the most important part of accessing support. It also gives us greater self-awareness, helping us move forwards with logical decisions.

“Pause, have a think if there's another way and then try again, I can't just give up!”

2. Listening to the other side

The first step to challenging a decision is to really understand where the other person is coming from. Find out what they really want. By carefully listening to where others are coming from, they may be able to reveal to us some opportunities for compromises and alternatives.

Illustration of a man and women next to a bullseye.

“Quite often when we listen to them, there are hints about how we might get a yes (either this time or next time)"

If we’re new to caring, we will find that it’ll take some persistence getting past our first ‘no’. Here are what other carers have said:

“Ask them to explain their reasoning and then try to unpick their points one by one.”
“I believe in having a reasonable adult conversation, not getting annoyed, [try to] see the other person’s point of view. Being assertive is not a crime.”

As Margaret Neale, co-author of ‘Getting More of What You Want’ helpfully puts it, one way we can challenge the ‘no’ is try to think about what can help solve our situation, and open doors to more support. So that our approach “becomes about problem solving rather than trying to win”.

3. Work past the ‘no’

Does the ‘no’ really mean ‘no’? Can we find other ways around it?

When it comes to a very specific situation, we may not know everything. Are we familiar with the rights we have as carers? It may also be helpful to get a third-party’s input such as an advocate.

We can also get in touch with charities or organisations that specialise in this topic and ask them if they can help us with free advice. Our guide to condition-specific support is a good starting point for our research.

“Research and find a way around it. Keep trying!”
“Research and rationalise. Is there another way... Does it really mean no…”
“Try to find an alternative.”

In negotiation theory, finding our next best alternative when no deal is reached, means that we have one more chance at getting closer to a ‘yes’. In the caring world, this is easier said than done. But it’s not impossible!

So how do we find this alternative?

Illustration of a woman on her laptop.


If we’re not receiving the support we were promised or eligible for, can we write an email asking why? Can we politely raise our issue with some suggestions on what can really help us right now? Getting things down in emails also helps ensure we don’t miss anything.


If it’s well-known that their department takes ages to respond to emails, can we directly call them?

It would be helpful to prepare some notes of what we want to mention, and responses to some anticipated replies we may receive.

Asking for help

If we don’t do too well with phone calls, can we get a family member or friend who is great with phone calls to help? Getting this over with can hopefully alleviate some of the burden of constantly thinking about it.

4. Have things written down on paper (or digitally)

Another tip that carers have suggested is to always make sure we have important names, dates and times of the person we spoke to down on paper.

“Persistence and have everything written down. Get the person’s name and recall it if someone else answers the phone.”

By keeping track of this, we have the information readily available. Meaning we don’t have to spend too much time thinking about who said what to us when.

5. Look for opportunities to compromise

The reality is this may not be easy in every situation that we come across. Sometimes, it simply comes down to the person we’re talking to. And they may not be as open to compromises as we’d hope.

If this is the case, are they able to offer a range of other alternative solutions that can help us right now?

And where possible, are we able to build a rapport with the person we’re talking to? So that they can have a better sense of where we are coming from?

“It depends who the “no” is coming from … and what conversations preceded. But generally the better the dialogue and rapport and relationship between people, the more likely there is a way to find a happy compromise. So to avoid “no” “end of” scenarios it’s just good to always work with people the best way you can in every interaction.”

Compromising can feel like a long back and forth process. To save this, we can also think about alternative solutions that we would be happy with for the time being. And ask if they can meet us in the middle.

Bouncing back after receiving a ‘no’

It’s important to remember that just because we’ve been faced with a ‘no’ once, doesn’t mean we’ll be faced with more ‘no’s’ down the line. Or that we should accept more of this down the line.

Now looking back and reflecting, what have we gained from the experience?

For example:

  • Do we now know the best method of contacting the person or department?

  • Do we now know what questions should be prepared in advance?

  • Do we now know where to go to for free advice?

  • Are we now more aware of some of the responses we may receive?

As carers, we're also allowed to say 'no'. Having been dealt with lots of it, have we perhaps learned to stand our ground a little more firmly? The same way others have with us?

Sometimes, zooming out and seeing the bigger picture can help us bounce back from receiving a ‘no’, and better prepare us for the future.

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