How to Happily Say No Without Feeling Guilty

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How to Happily Say No Without Feeling Guilty

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I don’t know about you but throughout my life, I’ve struggled with the art of saying no. Those two short, little letters could barely make their way out of my mouth without me feeling guilty for even thinking about using them. 

There have been many instances where I’ve said no, felt guilty, returned back to that same person I said no to, asked them if they really needed me to do said thing, then I would make some kind of compromise with them to make them feel better, while I just sulked in silence. 

Looking back at it now, I just want to ask myself what’s wrong with you? Why couldn’t you just say those two little letters with one syllable? 


Just. Say. it. It’s so easy.

Well — if I can explain. I strangely felt like there were a lot of reasons that got in my way of not saying no. Maybe some of those reasons may sound familiar to you.

By nature, I know I am definitely a people pleaser. Working as a sales associate at Macy’s for like two years, I always went out of my way to make sure customers came in finding exactly what it is they were looking for even if some of them had no clue why they were there in the first place. 

Anyways, I care too much about other people’s feelings before my own and this is something I am still working on. I need to find the right balance of caring for other people while not sacrificing my happiness for others. 

Another reason is I didn’t want to feel left out. I know, I know; weird right? Let’s say one of my friends asked me to go to the movies and I said no one time, they might probably never ask me again because I might say no again. So silly I know, but these are the kind of thoughts that keep me up at night kids. 

As time passed, I have definitely gotten better at saying no gracefully without feeling guilty. In this post, I will be sharing some of my tips on how to say no to others, whether you’re busy talking to friends, family, workmates, or that pestering fly that won’t stop asking you out.

*I am not a doctor, life coach, or healthcare professional. My blog posts are just my opinions and the results of things that either worked for me or didn’t. I am just passionate about sharing my experiences and providing tips on self-care and personal development. 

Practice, Practice, Practice

Woman facing vanity mirror; Photo by Min An from Pexels

First things first, I suggest you practice saying no to yourself in a mirror and study how that word rolls right off your tongue like noooooooooo. Have some unique practice questions nearby and read those bad boys out loud to yourself. Say no in different tones, that helps too.

• Do you like spinach on your pizza? Eww, No.

• I’m headed to the mall, you wanna come? Nope, I’m gucci.

Can you please come over and hang out with me? Well, I got 99 problems but coming over isn’t one.of.them.

 After you pick out your favorite type and tone of no, grab a family member or friend to practice with. Be sure to let them what you’re doing and ask them to give you example practice questions so you can say no to a human before hitting the big leagues. 

Read Your Audience 

Knowing when to use a direct no and an indirect no is key. 

Direct nos work well when you feel very uncomfortable about something or to do something. It’s almost like an F you type of no that totally puts the individual before others any day or night; and I’m totally okay with that.  

And then, there’s the indirect no where you have to dance around like a little ballerina before you get to the word no.  Or how about when you don’t want to say no — like at all — so you say it in a totally different way.

To decide which type of no to use for a particular situation, you kind of have to feel out the situation. The type of nos I use at work may not be the same as the ones I use for family and friends. 

As the workplace is more of a professional setting, you may have to find some unique and indirect ways of saying no to certain questions.

Since I’m more familiar with family and friends, I may use a more direct and firm no but at work, I would probably use a buffer to say no. 

For instance, if I’m super busy at work and someone asks me if I can help them right away, instead of being like NO, get out of my face!, I  would respectfully give a reason as to why I’m busy right now and can’t help them at the moment. This way the person knows that I’m not brushing them off but I have a good reason as to why I can’t do what they’re asking me to do. 

Think Ahead, Darling

When someone asks you a question and you’re unsure of how to say no, just think of an afterward scenario of how you would feel if you did say yes. Would you be miserable and asking yourself why you put yourself through this? Would you be having a gucci good ole time? Or (big one) do you even want to do said thing with this particular person? 

If your answer to any of these is a no, then child — you need to find a new way to utter some no.

closeup of turned on light bulb; Photo by Emrah Tolu from Pexels

If you’re a people-pleaser like myself, don’t be afraid to be honest as to why you’re saying no. It might help ease the awkwardness from both parties. Idk, just a thought.

But, honestly, you really don’t have to explain yourself to nooooobody as to why you’re saying no in certain situations. (apart from business or work), that is your business and your business only! 

To lighten the mood, if you hadn’t notice, I like to add a little humor to my nos. It helps me say the no quickly and feel less guilty afterward because everyone is too busy laughing to notice. 

For example, if you tell me:

  • Hey, you wanna go bungee jumping with me this Saturday?  My Answer to that will be and always will be:  Nah, I wanna live, have fun though!

To top things off here are 11 fun ways to say no without feeling guilty:

  • No …  thank you
  • Nah, I’m good, thanks though!
  • Sorry, I can’t (shake your head while you’re doing this so they know you’ve lost your puppy)
  • Sorry, I have a date with myself
  • Sorry, I have an appointment (with myself)
  • Nope, nope, sorry, yea nope
  • Haha, you so funny … no -__-
  • Interesting …. I’ll think about i — no
  • Oh man, I wish! but sadly, I cant :/
  • Unfortunately, never is a good time for me right now
  • Aw man! I’m booked for the rest of the (day, month, year)

Pin for Later!

how to happily say no pinterest pin

And if all else fails, start shaking your head, repeat saying nahhhh and do not, I repeat, do not look into the other person’s eyes for so long or else they might guilt trip you into what you were trying to avoid. And then, we’ll be right back at square one. 

Now, Let’s Discuss:

How do you say no without feeling guilty?

Let me know down in the comments below.

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Josie D. is a content writer and editor. She's passionate about encouraging millennials to practice genuine self-care. She also wants to help millennials dress the part, travel to cool places, and feel good about themselves! 💕✨

22 thoughts on “How to Happily Say No Without Feeling Guilty

  1. I’ve been learning to say no to things that are bad for my mental health and it is such a powerful tool. I get that it is hard. It took me years to be able to do it effectively and without any shame or guilt attached.

    1. same! i struggled for a really long time but once i got it down, its not that hard anymore. Thank you for stopping by!! 💕💕💕

    1. yea ive always wondered why its so hard for a lot of folks; I feel like if it was a common thing, it might be easier for everyone to say no. Thank you for stopping by!! 💕💕💕

  2. Definitely an important topic. I used to really struggle saying no too. Now I very much enjoy it. This is my life, and I get to decide how to spend it. I’m sure you will inspire a lot of people to start saying no more often too.

    1. lol i enjoy it too, especially when i can pop a little humor into it. Excatlyyy, spend it how you want!! aw thank you so much!! 💕💕💕

  3. This made me laugh at the same time as feeling super relatable. It’s good to understand the art of saying NO. Personally, professionally, and so on. Thanks for this!

    1. aw yayy lol that makes me happy that you found it funny! I wanted it to be silly but at the same time important for those who struggle with saying no. Thank you for stopping by!! 💕💕💕

  4. I always feel guilty when I say no! (Apparently I’m an insecure people pleaser) I need to practice and just say NO. When I give excuses/reasons why, it seems as if that opens the door to the person in question trying harder to get me to say yes!

    I love this one…’Unfortunately, never is a good time for me right now’ Snarky!

    1. I agree! Giving reasons/excuses sometimes gives some people amo to bait you into saying yes, so annoying lol! Haha I laugh every time I see or hear that line. Thank you for reading and sharing!! 💕💕💕

  5. Saying no is something I’ve got better at over the years but wow, it took a long time! Saying no is definitely part of self-care and it’s not selfish. Great tips, thank you for sharing 🙂 Lisa

    1. Right!!! It’s not selfish to say no!! That’s what I got to remember to stop feeling guilty. Thank you for reading!! 💕💕💕

  6. I love this! Saying no is SO important but for some reason we’ve all be so conditioned to feel guilty about saying it? I feel SO guilty whenever I say no to someone or something and I don’t know why and it’s something I really need to work on xxx

    1. I know right!! Me too! It is definitely I am continuously checking and working on to be better at it in my own way. Thank you for stopping by!! 💕💕💕

  7. Loved this post! I used to struggle to say no as well fearing, luckily now I’m trying to prioritise more my needs. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes! I have to remember to prioritize as well! That helps in not feeling guilty when questions that require saying no come out of nowhere. Thank you for stopping by!! 💕💕💕

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