Say 'no' without guilt

Do you feel terrible after you've said 'no' to somebody? Are you always saying 'yes' because you're afraid to say 'no? Do you have a duty to serve and feel guilty if you turn a task down? Then keep on reading my friend because this blog was written with people like you in mind.


Sometimes we do extra things because they fall within our area of responsibility and they're manageable so that's fine. Other times, we may owe a favour to a friend so we want to repay them and that feels like the right thing to do. However, there are these times when the requests are unreasonable, yet we feel guilty refusing to do something.


There's an element of feeling important, almost powerful, when we give a solution to a problem. When someone asks us if we can do something for them, our usual default answer is 'sure, I'll get that done for you, no problem'. Hearing words of gratitude or receiving looks of affirmation gives us a sense of value and self-worth and it feels good.


What doesn't feel good is when you divert your attention from your most important tasks in order to serve and obey others and you end up frustrated. Fortunately, you can retrain yourself and practice how to say 'no' guilt-free.


1. Think. You can't do everything and that's a fact. So prioritise and say 'no' by following your instinct.

2. You're a good egg. Just because you are refusing this time, doesn't mean you are selfish. Remember all the people you have helped in the past.

3. Draw the line. Know you can't please everyone all of the time and this will help you stay sane and happy with yourself.

4. Every 'no' is a 'yes'. When you say 'no' to something, you are automatically saying 'yes' to something else, e.g. a walk in the park, watching you favourite show, reading and so on.

5. Go deep. Look deeper into the root and understand why you feel guilty saying 'no'. Perhaps there's a more serious cause to how you respond and the relationship needs mending.

6. Recognise the tactics. People can use different methods to manipulate you, either consciously or out of habit, so learn to look out for these tactics.


I have a few examples of phrases you can use and tweak to suit your personality. Don't worry if they seem fake at first as they work best if you've practised them out loud a few times. It's vital to retrain yourself so that you don't keep falling into your usual habits of agreeing to every demand, no matter how unreasonable it sounds or how often it comes.


  • That’s not my area of expertise, but I would be happy to put you in touch with someone who could help you solve this problem.

  • I would love to help you out but I wouldn’t be able to get this back to you on time unfortunately.

  • I appreciate you thinking of me but unfortunately I don’t have the time to give this my best right now.

  • I would love to assist but I already made commitments so it wouldn’t be fair to not follow through on what I said I would do.


Remember, you don't always have to explain why you're refusing a task. Be respectful to others but also to yourself. It always helps if you add 'Thank you for understanding' in the end. And remember that by consistently practising better responses, you will get the hang of it and make more people happy, including yourself.


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