How to say no and not feel bad

Picture this: someone asks you for something. You feel like if you say no that they’re going to be upset with you. But you just don’t have the time, energy, money, etc. Not to mention that if you say yes, you’ll be compromising your mental health and stress levels. So what do you say? The answer: no.

We understand that saying no - whether it’s to friends, family or coworkers - can be a challenge sometimes. In the world we live in, there’s pressure to have it all together all the time. But the truth is, balancing all of the different areas of your life can be extremely difficult. A work/life balance isn’t always easy to achieve, and the pressures that come along with it can make us feel like we need to say “yes” to everything.

Even if you’re not a people pleaser, it’s common to feel as though you always need to be ready to do something or go somewhere. But we’re here to remind you that it’s actually important to say no. Why? Because these pressures can have a serious impact on your life.

If saying “yes” to more things than you would like to is causing you stress, chances are that your mental health is being impacted as well. Not to mention you’re giving up control of your time. If you’re looking to have a better work/life balance, the art of saying no is something you’ll want to perfect.

It won’t come overnight, but learning to say no will help you improve your mental well-being and take back control of your schedule. Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, we’ve put together some of our favourite tips on how to say no and not feel bad.

  1. Start small

    Saying no doesn’t always come easy, especially in today’s world. We’re supposed to have enough time for work, life, friends and ourselves. But unfortunately, most of the time we don’t. That’s why saying no can be a challenge.

    However, by starting small, you can continuously practice saying no until it becomes much easier. Even something like, “No, I don’t want to sign up for these emails” or “No, I don’t want to buy XXX product” will allow you to get familiar with the phrase. Start with the small things and work your way up to the big things! It’ll take time, but you can slowly train yourself to say no more often.

  2. Have a response in mind

    If you’ve got a full schedule but know your coworkers will try and add things to your plate, try having a few phrases in mind beforehand. This way, when the time comes, you’ll know exactly what to say and won’t feel the need to panic.

    Things like, “I’m so sorry, but my schedule is extremely full right now” are kind and honest. Simply explain that you don’t have the time, but once things slow down you’d be happy to help. Write these phrases down or keep them in a note on your phone so you have no excuses to cave!

  3. Don’t lie

    Lying or making up excuses will only make you feel more guilty about saying no. Saying “I can’t come out tonight, I already have plans” when you don’t is only going to make the situation more uncomfortable. Instead, be honest and say something like “I’m sorry, I’ve had a long week and am planning on staying in to catch up on sleep.” Your real friends will always understand!

  4. Be firm in your answer

    Don’t follow up a no with a yes. When you say no, those asking you for something should respect your answer. As stated above, your true friends will understand where you’re coming from and won’t push you to change your answer.
    So when you say no, make it clear that that’s the answer. We don’t mean you need to be forceful, but simply explain that the answer is no and you’d appreciate their respect.

  5. Counteroffer

    Sometimes, we need to say no in the moment, but can offer a solution in the future. A counteroffer can make saying no much easier. If your friend asks you out for drinks on Saturday but you’re already in bed with your face mask on, try something like, “I can’t hang out tonight but I’d love to grab coffee sometime next week.” If you’re at work and a coworker asks you to help with something, say, “I can’t finish that project this week due to my full schedule, but if you give me until next week I can do it then.”

    When you present a counteroffer, you’ll feel better about saying no, and the person asking you for something can still feel like they’re being told yes. It’s a compromise that typically works for everyone involved.


Remember: it’s okay to say no if you’re unable to do something. You have the right to prioritise your mental health and make decisions that are right for you.

Society might make us feel as though we have to have enough time for all areas of our life, but in reality, life gets crazy and throws us plenty of curveballs. Achieving a work/life balance is tough, but that’s why saying no is so important.

We know that it can be tough, but by practising these five tips, you’re sure to leave that stress behind!

We hope these tips have helped.

What has worked for you in the past when saying know? Share with us below!

BlogOlivia GanderComment