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12 Tips On How To Say No (Without Feeling Guilty)

“No” is a short word that can be incredibly difficult to say in response to someone’s request. For people that have difficulty saying “no”, you may be persuaded to do lots of things you don’t want to do. From attending events, to picking up extra shifts at work, to donating money. Learning how to say no without feeling guilty can take a long time, but it is worth it.

Girl looking down with tan hat covering face

The inability to say “no” may be related to the fear of ruining relationships. We don’t want to appear rude, and we may want to maintain a positive relationship with whomever is asking us.

In saying the word “no”, we are setting boundaries. We are making it clear what we are willing to do, and what we are not. Learning to just say “no” is not enough. It is important to feel confident and calm at the same time.

12 steps on how to say no (without feeling guilty)

1. Understand why you have a difficult time saying no

It is worth reflecting on the reasoning why it is difficult for you to say no. In what situations does it happen? Is it only with certain people? It is also important to determine how you feel when you have to say no. This information will help you see an alternative perspective.

2. Take the time to think

If someone asks a request of you, it is ok to think about it. Next time, try saying “I will get back to you”. Sometimes having an adequate amount of time to reflect can help aid our decision-making process. By having the time we need, we are less likely to feel “put on the spot”. We can respond by phone, email, or text at a later time.

3. Start small

Practice saying “no” in response to small requests. You may need to get used to defending your boundaries. It is also important to recognize how people around you say “no”. By starting small, we will gradually work up our confidence to refuse larger requests. This could be as simple as saying “no” when a server asks us if we want more to drink.

4. Offer an alternative

For some people, the feeling of guilt arises after saying the word “no”. Offering an alternative can be a good way to compromise on a request. Even if you cannot help them directly, you are still offering a solution to help them out. An example of this would be “I cannot watch your dog this weekend, but I know of someone who may be able to and I will give you their phone number”.

5. Connect with empathy

Showing that you have heard and understood a person’s request may help them feel better. Even if you cannot help them, it is important to be supportive when someone is in need.

6. Refer to internal or external circumstances

Sometimes, explaining why you have to say “no” can help ease the guilt you may feel. If you cannot attend an event because you have to work, be sure to let that person know exactly why you are refusing. It is important to be honest in these scenarios. If you lie and make up reason, you may forget and cause yourself more trouble. You can also add “I will let you know if something changes” at the end of the conversation.

7. Set boundaries and priorities

Sometimes, people have a difficult time saying “no” when they have not taken the time to evaluate their priorities. When you clearly understand what you need to do next week, or next month, it makes it a lot easier to plan your time. If you are constantly agreeing to external obligations, you won’t have time to take care of personal tasks and goals.

8. Persevere and be vigilant

Some people may pester you and ask something of you repeatedly. It is important to stand your ground if you cannot commit to their request. If you give in and decide to say “yes”, they may remember this of you, which will not make it any easier to say “no” in the future.

9. Stop apologizing

While it may seem polite, there is no need to apologize when you cannot do something for someone. It is important to remember that you have your own obligations, schedule, family, etc.

10. Try to fulfill part of the request

If you really want to help somebody, see if it is possible to fulfill part of the request. If your friend needs help moving for the entire day on Saturday, offer to help pack boxes the night before. Or, you can offer to help for a part of the day. Fulfilling part of the request allows us to maintain our personal obligations while still helping a friend in need.

11. Have a go-to phrase

It may be helpful for you to have a pre-rehearsed phrase you are comfortable saying. Then, when you are surprised with a request, you will feel confident in what to say. You could say something along the lines of, “I will check my schedule and get back to you”. This gives you time to think over the request without feeling guilty.

12. Just say it.

Ideally, you should make your “no” quick and clear if you are sure you cannot help. If you delay your answer by saying you are going to think about it, you are leaving the other person in an awkward position. If you are sure you cannot say “yes”, or you simply do not want to, just say no!

Saying “no” can feel like a victory. Remember, refusal doesn’t make you a bad person. You are a person with their own life, plans, interests and agenda. We can help others in need when we are comfortable to do so.


Tuesday 30th of June 2020

Like!! I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your information. The article has truly peaked my interest.


Thursday 23rd of April 2020

Great tips! I always try to offer an alternative so i’ll feel less guilty and still somehow be able to help them. It’s hard not say the word “sorry” or apologize for saying “no”. But you’re right, there’s nothing to be sorry about! ?

Nana Esi

Monday 23rd of March 2020

Thank you. I hope to put this in practice. Its so hard for me to say no.


Saturday 22nd of February 2020

Thanks for the great tips. This is something I'm really working on. I can say no to work, but not so much in my personal life. I've found I get stretched too thin, because of this, so I'm trying to get better at saying no without the guilt. Other people are important, but I'm important too.

Lyanna Soria

Saturday 15th of February 2020

This has been something I've had trouble with last year and I'm hoping to change that this year. Those are some great points and thanks for the tips.


Friday 21st of February 2020

Thank you for reading.

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