How to Say No, Without Feeling Bad or Guilty?

Will I write a subtitle? No.
How to say no, without feeling bad!
Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

Recently one of my friends asked me to lend him some money. And I being like a lot of people, couldn’t say no. But, did I have extra money to help him? No (I’m a broken university student). It was not a big amount but not less either. However, being a “nice” friend I felt obliged to be helpful, complacent, and compassionate. To the extent, that I was already feeling guilty of thinking about saying no. So I agreed. And what happened next? I felt bad for agreeing about a thing I didn’t want to agree with. And by its consequences, I realized that it was really a bad decision. I should have said no in the first place.

But, how to say no without feeling bad or guilty? That’s what we are going to learn today; together, of course! 😉

Let’s see what are the available options when presented with similar situations:

  1. We can say yes (which I’ve done, wow!), and feel miserable & uncomfortable after saying that. Particularly, lending money is not healthy and creates issues later on.
  2. We can say “no”. And feel bad and guilty after saying no. Those are the “after-shocks” we most fear.
  3. And we can say “no”, without feeling bad or guilty about it.

What is the best option among all? Well, we all know Liza, the third one.

Then why don’t we choose the best option for us? Because we simply don’t know how to say no without feeling bad. But saying no will not be that tough if we do some practice and follow some tactics. Hence, I’ve researched and collected below a best-practiced list on how to say no for you guys. Let’s start learning and prioritizing our self-peace

Understand your reasons for saying no

Firstly, to learn how to say no, you need to understand the reason for saying no. Because, if you are intended to saying no to someone, you should have a reason for that. It can be your self-preference or you might not have enough time or resources to help them.

Notice how you are prioritizing one thing over the other. Maybe you are helping someone else at that time. Or maybe you are already exhausted and your energy level is so low that you might mess up the requested task instead of completing it. Therefore, your reason matters and that has the utmost importance.

For example, one of your colleagues wants you to help him through a task. But you have a dinner commitment with your family. And you should fulfill your prior commitments. So, you have all the rights to courteously saying no to your colleague.

Learn how to say no from others (or from those who do it confidently)

Maybe you had said no to someone before and you did not like the reaction to hurt someone. So, you are just hesitant about saying no now. Interestingly, a person sometimes forgets that 99% of the time saying no had not affected anything. You just remember the 1% time it did affect.

Therefore, try to build a realistic perspective by noticing how many times people say no to each other. You will notice that it’s just a common thing. The other person just shrugs and says “Okay, no problem”.

Also, if you learn how to say no, saying it kindly will not make the other person angry. Moreover, you feel better and free.

Maintain your boundaries

Sometimes, we just become people pleasers. We want to go out of our ways to please others (yes, I remember what I have done too, I’m working on this man :/ ). So now, people will take your “yes” for granted. And they may keep on demanding whatever they see you have. Because you are just so good at giving! The worst scenario is that they will start asking you what you have as if it is their right to have already, in their minds.

Stop doing that. Know your worth and limits. You, my dear friend, in this life cannot please everyone.

As Anna Taylor says:

Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious.  You get to choose how you use it.  You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept

How to say no and maintaining your boundaries
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Ask for some time

In the list of ‘how to say no without feeling bad’, this one is my personal favorite. Asking for some time won’t make you decide immediately.

It is not necessary to respond or immediately or say “yes” to someone’s offer or request. It is not a ‘time bomb’ that is going to blast if you take a few minutes to think or even a few days. Instead, it will help you to consider your limits and boundaries.

We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no’.


Says Tom Friel, former CEO of Heidrick & Struggles.

So next time someone asks you for something. Remember the following sentences to learn how to say no:

  • I’ll check out my calendar/schedule and will call you back
  • I have to think about this, but I’ll get back to you soon

In case you are encountering someone face to face, you can say that

  • I’ll email you about this once I get free doing other important things.

It’s easy saying no to someone over phone or email rather on their face.

Practice how to say no & saying no

I know this may sound a little extra. But it’s another effective way to learn how to say no.

Practice makes anything perfect. I have even seen people panicking when salespersons approach them to buy something. Yes, many people do find it difficult how to say no to a salesman. Next time, you are in the situation, try saying assertively but politely ‘No sir, thank you”. It would be enough to do the job for you.

Do you want to leave the article here? No. 😃 Then let’s carry on…

Be assertive…

Sometimes, saying no to a request from a friend or colleague sounds awkward. So, you have to be assertive and firm in your first response to know how to say no properly. Because saying no is you right.

Let’s see the example conversation to show this:

For example, a classmate asks you to help him with the assignment

You: I’m so sorry, I’m doing my assignment right now.

Him: Okay, so, can you please help me with mine after finishing yours?

You: I fear I can’t, I’m so tired and I need to sleep after that.

Him: No problem, then maybe tomorrow?

Don’t Do

Them: Can you help me with my assignment, please?
You: Never, do it yourself. Bye

After learning that we can say, we should say, and how to say no to colleagues and friends. It does not mean that you can be rude or non-empathetic. Contrary to that, it is to learn saying no without hurting someone or yourself.

It means that you should show compassion to them while saying no.

Do This

You: I appreciate you asking me for help, but unfortunately, I’m too busy to help you. I really hope that you complete it on time.

That’s the proper way to how to say no, where you don’t sound rude and have a good reason.

Sometimes, these tactics are not sufficient and you keep getting unreasonable requests. What to do in that case. Let’s see.

Broken Record Technique

Of course, a simple no is not enough for some people and they keep requesting you for something again and again. Like they may want you to purchase something, to visit somewhere, to eat something, etc. Sometimes it is a very unreasonable request so you have to stand with your decision to say no unless the person stops insisting. Especially if it is a harmful request or permission. For example, you can never approve your 13 year child request to have alcohol at his friend’s party, no matter how much he insists. So, in that case, keep saying no.

Keep saying no, no, no!
Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

This technique works like charm, however, cannot be applied in many scenarios. Like with a professor, or a boss or friends. Let’s discuss what we can do in those scenarios

Give them an alternative

In today’s article on how to say no, this is also one of my favorite ways of dealing. If your friend is asking you to help him with an assignment, you can offer them your help in another assignment, later on.

Let’s see another example

Son: Can I go and do a party all night, with my friends?

You: No, but we can have a pizza party together at home.

It will make them feel better, and also this will not be a clear rejection, you are still offering them something.

But remember, do offer the only thing you’re comfortable in doing. Or at least which will not be a burden on you. You don’t want to repeat the same people-pleasing habit. If your boss asks you to complete extra projects, you can say that you are already working on a few before, and you want to give them quality time. But you will happily assist with another project.

Also, assume a charity you believe is legit, asks you to donate $30460. You now that you want to donate for this cause, but $30460?

Umm No. But you can happily donate $15.

Give them a rational reason

Besides applying other ways of how to say no, you can give a little rational reason for saying no. The other person and you will always feel good with a little communication.

When I claim more than what I can handle, I limit the opportunities for another person in my community.

― Jeff Shinabarger, More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity


For example, if someone is asking you to purchase x, telling them that you already purchase the alternative y is enough.

Avoid Delay, Say it!

In the ways of how to say no, last but not the least, say it! Don’t wander here and there, or procrastinate things. The more time you will take more it will be difficult for you saying no. And you will ultimately end up lending someone money, by lending that from your parents or someone else:’) No, I’m not referencing my example.

Say no!
Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.

Paulo Coelho

Take care of yourself. And prioritize your own mental health over everything.

Want to read some more ways of how to say no?


Woah, you are already getting better at this!

Liza Aslam Chaudhry
Liza is a student of electrical engineering, and besides that, she is a passionate writer & reader. Being an observant yet sensitive person, she loves to write about psychology, mental health, social issues, personal development, brands & technology. Occasionally, Liza becomes a poet too. She knows to make her content optimize and reachable to provide quality and value to the masses. Moreover, Liza is writing for a few blogs and websites to help them grow their readers and enhance SEO.