How to Say "No" and Not Feel Guilty About It

Updated on December 10, 2016
Room of My Own profile image

Sadie Holloway is a workshop facilitator who teaches interpersonal communication skills to help people strengthen their relationships.

Do you feel guilty when you say "No" to someone? Do you end up saying "Yes" to things you don't want to do because you don't want to let someone down? These tips on how to say "No" without feeling guilty can help put your mind at ease and make you feel more assertive.

You should be free to say "No" without feeling guilty!

Imagine all the space and time you will free up for the things you do want to do when you learn how to say "No" without feeling bad about it.
Imagine all the space and time you will free up for the things you do want to do when you learn how to say "No" without feeling bad about it.

Who is the most challenging person for you to say "No" to without feeling guilty?

See results

Saying “no” can be hard, especially for recovering people-pleasers like me. But over the last few years I’ve been practicing the essential art of saying “no" and here's what I've learned.

The first step to learning how to say “no” is to recognize the impact that not standing up for yourself can have on your self-esteem, your well-being and the quality of your relationships. For me and many other people too, saying “yes” to something we don’t want to do can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and resentment.

Learning to say ‘no’ to requests you can’t or don’t want to fulfill takes plenty of patience and practice. Here are some of the things that I try to remember when I feel myself being pressured to say “yes” to something I don’t want to do.

Be yourself. The wonderful thing about speaking up and letting your needs be known is that others will get to know the authentic you: your preferences, your tastes, your values and your ethics. Have you ever heard your friend say to you: “I didn’t know you didn’t like (ballet/green bean casserole/insert dreaded item here). Why didn’t you tell me? I would have done things differently had I known.”

Believe it or not, your friends and family do want you to be happy, and they probably don’t intend to make your life difficult. But if you don’t take responsibility for expressing your needs, you’re depriving others of an opportunity to share in doing things you like to do with you.

Prioritize the request. Ask yourself if saying “yes” to this request will help you achieve a personal goal, whether it be a short-term goal or a long-term goal. For example, will helping your best friend move on the day before your SAT exam help you ace the test? Or would saying “no” give you more time to study and prepare for the exam?

Find your own power phrases. Practicing the use of assertive phrases is a great way to get clear about what you want. These can include phrases such as:

  • I have another perspective...
  • I need your help with...
  • I can’t do that right now...

Here's a gentle reminder: If you forget any of your power phrases, you can always remind yourself that “no” is a complete sentence.

Be honest. Saying “no” to something that you don’t want to do is better than being dishonest and saying “yes” just to please someone else. Don’t lie to yourself or to the person making the request, especially if it means making a commitment you can’t possibly fulfill; you will only delay the let-down. In the long-run, your honesty will be appreciated by your true friends and family.

If you are unsure about what to do, ask the other person if the decision can wait. If saying “yes” to something doesn’t fit in with your schedule right now, ask if the decision can wait a few days.

Trust yourself. Trust that you are a good, sensible person and when it comes to decisions that would put someone in harm’s way, your intuition will guide you. Your sense of empathy, compassion and genuine concern for someone else’s safety will kick in and keep you from saying “no" at the wrong time. For example, if a friend was being harassed at a bar and needed a ride home because she was worried about being followed, your concern for her safety would kick in and tell you to drive her home. Trust that your gut will guide you in your decisions.

If you have trouble saying no, make sure that you recognize and congratulate yourself every time you do stand up for yourself and your needs. Remind yourself that every time you say “No" you are actually saying "Yes" to yourself and your own health and well-being.

Be who you are and say what you mean. Because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind!

— Dr. Seuss
Prioritizing other people's requests and being honest and sincere about what you can and can not do allows you to experience more joy and happiness because your generosity will be coming from the heart.
Prioritizing other people's requests and being honest and sincere about what you can and can not do allows you to experience more joy and happiness because your generosity will be coming from the heart.

© 2016 Sadie Holloway


Submit a Comment
  • Room of My Own profile imageAUTHOR

    Sadie Holloway 

    3 years ago

    Thanks, Vocalcoach! And congratulations on finding the courage to stand up and do what was best for you!

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    Your hub found me at just the right time. I made a decision today to say "no" to a family member. IT took all the courage I could muster up to do this. It's been a long time coming. This article confirmed to me that I made the right decision. Big thanks to you! Sharing.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)