It can be really hard to say no to people, especially if you like to please people. You may feel the urge to say yes so that you won’t be judged, or feel like anyone is upset with you. A part of living and being smart is knowing that you don’t always need to say yes and you don’t need to feel guilty for saying no either.


Perhaps your boss or manager has asked you to do some extra tasks while your colleague is out of town, or your in-laws invited you for dinner, or a group of friends want to club in and go on holiday together. The answer doesn’t have to be yes!


We’re not saying you have to make the switch from being a “yes, man” to a “no, man”. Obviously, there are cases where you will want to say yes. But that is exactly the point … Do you want to say yes? However, there are many times where you are well within your right to say no. You can’t please everyone, but as long as you are polite and respectful when saying no, there should be no problems. Not only are you allowed to say no, but you also don’t have to feel guilty when doing so!


Here are a few ways to say no without feeling guilty:


Change your perception

It’s more than likely that all the times you got a ‘bad’ reaction after saying no are stuck in your head. Try focussing on all the times no doesn’t cause any problems and try to develop a more realistic perspective.


Don’t respond immediately

If someone sent you an email or WhatsApp asking for something and you don’t have a clear answer right then and there, put it aside for a couple of hours, think about your response and let them down easily. You might just jump to saying yes instinctively when the pressure is on. But don’t just suffer in silence, it is best to let that person know that you will get back to them soon. Some phrases to try:

  • “I need to check my calendar; I’ll get back to you.”
  • “Let me check with my husband/wife/partner to see if we’re free that day.”
  • “I’ve got to think about that; I’ll let you know.”
  • “I’ll have to call you back in a few minutes.”


Acknowledge that you can’t do everything

Saying yes to everything and everyone will cause stress and worry as you will not have enough time for yourself and the things that matter to you. Make sure that whatever it is you are saying yes to is something you have time for and more importantly, actually want to do.


Be selfish

With your time, energy, money, resources … you name it. Sometimes you just can’t afford to take on more tasks at work, or you desperately need to sort out the garden this weekend. You are allowed to say no and put yourself and things that matter to you first! Perhaps we can learn from Warren Buffett, who said, "The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything."


Offer an alternative

If you feel that you can’t give a straight-up no in any given situation, you can always put the question back on them. For example, “I’d love to help you sort out your garage, but I’m not available this weekend. How does next Saturday sound?”


Don’t apologise

You need to realise that you do not need to apologize when you cannot do something that is asked of you. Apologizing means that you are guilty of something and saying no to someone is nothing to be guilty about. The more you practise this, the more naturally it will come. 


Adopt a ‘policy’

When you live by clear principles it’s easier to make decisions and people are more likely to respect your responses. There’s less chance of someone feeling personally rejected if it’s clear this is a ‘rule’ you live by. Think of a situation where someone asks for a loan. Whether you can or can’t help them out, having a policy of not lending money will make saying no much easier. Simply say, “Sorry, I have a policy about not lending money.” and leave it at that. 


Walk away

If you have been practising your right to say no and you come across an individual who does get upset with you or holds it against you, perhaps it is time to walk away from this relationship. Not recognising someone’s right to say no is manipulative and selfish. Stand firm, and don't feel compelled to give in just because that person is uncomfortable.


Do you have a hard time saying no? Give these tips a try!



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