How To Say No To Others

how to say no

“I always end up saying yes to people, when I actually wanted to say No. I don’t  know how to say no to my friends. I always end up promising more than what I have time for”. Are these sentences familiar to you? Can you imagine yourself saying these things time to time. Then it’s time for you to learn how to say no to others without hurting their feelings.

Personally I used to find it really hard to say no. whenever someone used to approach me for some project, to assist them or for anything, I would say yes. I would say yes mostly due to the fear of hurting those people if I said No. And these people are important people in my life. They could be my partner, friends, family, office colleague, boss etc. So I always want to be nice to them. Hence I am afraid that these people would be unhappy with me if I say no to them.

Over time, I realized that saying yes to everything comes with its consequences.

I recently came across a quote by James Clear (Author of famous book – Atomic Habits) regarding this thing. 

He says, 

“When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option. No is a decision. Yes is a responsibility.”

This quote made me reflect back on my decisions. All those moments in past, where I wanted to do something else, something which I enjoy doing, but instead, I was stuck with doing something, which I never wanted to do, but said Yes just out of fear of hurting someone. I used to feel under constant pressure to please everyone. I was miserable, burnt out. I had no time for myself. Basically, I was unhappy with how things were. I will tell you all the tips that I used while saying No to others. But before that let me tell you why it’s important to say no.

Why it’s important to say no

It might feel good, if you can say yes to everyone who approach with some request. However, it’s not an ideal world. Below are the reasons why you need to say no when you want to say no:

To manage your time:

There are only 24 hours in a day. Our time is limited, and we need to manage so many things in this limited time. Hence, in order to do those things, we need to say no to other things.

To grow yourself:

You need to constantly learn things, sharpen your skillset and be relevant and updated in this fast moving world. You need time to work on yourself.

To maintain enriching relationships:

Just imagine you say yes to your friend for some important work, now he is banking on you for that work. However, you are unable to do that work, because you have said yes to so many things and got caught up in them. How would your friend feel about this incident. How would you feel about disappointing your friend, even when you never meant to hurt him. Such incidents if occured frequently,might leave a scar on your relationship. If you knew it would be difficult and close to impossible for you to do that work for your friend, you should have said “No”, to him when he came to you with request. He might have looked for some alternative for getting that work done. That’s why saying no is important to maintain your relationships.

To be happy:

Saying no, gives you control of your time. You can use this time to do the things that make you happy.

Now, that we have seen Why it’s important to say no, let’s have a look at what are the reasons we say Yes, when we actually want to say No.

saying no without hurting feelings

Reasons why we say no

1 . Fear of hurting others feeling:

You are afraid that if you say no, you might hurt other person’s feeling. They might think you as rude if you say No.

2. Confirming to the norm:

Sometimes it could be a norm, either in your culture, office or family to say Yes to most things. And if you are in an environment where ‘Saying No’ is looked down upon, you will also start following the norm and start saying No to almost everything.

3. Fear of Conflict:

Sometimes you say Yes, just to avoid those fights, conflict which might happen if you say No to that thing.

4. Fear of lost opportunities:

You are fearful that saying no means losing out on those opportunities.

5. To help others

Most of the times, the people coming up to you with their request are the people you love and care about. You genuinely want to help these people. Hence you end up saying Yes instead of No.

As promised, here are the Tips that have personally helped me in Saying no when I wanted to. I want you to start practicing these in your daily life and you would thank me later.

Tips to say no

Sometimes, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Saying no politely might completely change the dynamics of the communication. Below are the practical tips you can follow when next time you had to say No to others:-

1. Be direct yet kind in your rejection

You need to make sure that you are being direct and there is no confusion or ambiguity when you are saying no. Having said that you don’t need to be rude. You can add kindness or a compliment in your rejection.


When your friend asks you to be part of a trip, however you can’t make it. You can say things like “This sounds like a great adventure, but I have to pass because I have my exams around that time. Thank you for considering me!”

2. Give your reasons

Whenever possible, state your reason for saying no to the other person. This gives transparency to the communication and other person won’t feel bad because now they also know the reason, why you had to say no.


When you reject a work proposal, you can say that, ” This is a good proposal, however we can’t take up this work right now because we are constrained on the Budget for this quarter.”

3. Keep the door open

Most of the times you want to say ‘not now’ instead of a flat ‘no’. Hence it’s important to keep the opportunity open for future in these conditions.


” Due to prior work commitments, I won’t be able to volunteer for that NGO event this week, but I can try for next week’s event!”

4. Offer an Alternative

If you have some alternative in mind, which can get the job done, don’t hesitate to suggest that alternative.


“Sorry, I won’t be able to switch shifts with you tomorrow, however Jon was looking for someone who can swap shifts, you can check with him”

Most of the times, these situations arise because of our failure to find work-life balance. You can refer to this article which will help you in finding work-life balance.

A Take-home message on ‘Saying no’

By human nature, we care about our people. We want to see them happy, we want to help them. However, most of the times we are constrained with limited resources like time, money and energy. 

Hence it becomes really important to consider any request logically as a decision to make, rather than an emotional burden. You should not look at saying no to someone for some request as caring less for that person. If you are honest, and letting other person know the reason behind the rejection, they will respect and love you more. This transparency will stronger the bond of your relationship with them.

Here’s to ‘Saying yes to Happiness!’

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