Have you ever said “yes” to someone when you really didn’t want to, or perhaps you knew you couldn’t deliver on the promise? Don’t worry, we all have. It’s completely natural that we want to please the people in our lives.

Most people avoid saying “no” to other people because they feel guilty for saying it. This is a common trait around the world. But then we often resent the commitment we said “yes” to when we wanted to say “no” to begin with.

Are we being fair to ourselves when we commit to something we didn’t want to in the first place? No, we are not being fair to ourselves, but the need to please others is programmed within us.

We are taught to obey our parents, and we usually did what our friends wanted to do when we were younger, so we would fit in. We also say “yes” at work because we want to be dependable. The thing is, no one wants to be thought of as an unhelpful person or a person who always says “no”. It is for exactly these reasons that we say “yes”.

Unfortunately, saying “yes” when you really want to say “no” is a bit unhealthy; and means you could be taking unnecessary responsibility for others. This can cause you to be mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.

We know this is true because of the dread we feel when the event we didn’t want to attend, or favour we didn’t want to do is approaching. Then, most times we don’t do what we said we would, and then we feel guilty because we know we have let the other person down.

“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes.  It is very easy to say yes.” – Tony Blair

So how can we learn to say “no” and not feel guilty about it?

We must stop thinking that we are responsible for another person’s reaction if we decline their request. If communicated properly, the other person will understand, and appreciate your honesty.

Sometimes the guilt we feel when we say “no” is directly related to not having a firm grip on our prior engagements and priorities. For example, if you are committed to an activity every Tuesday and Wednesday evening, you should say “no” to other requests during or very close to this time. There is nothing wrong with having a prior obligation. In fact, it can make things a little easier.

An example of sticking to our plans is when you are trying to accomplish something. If you need extra money to help a family member, you should say “no” to anything that will cost money unnecessarily. People will be understanding when you say, “I would like to do that with you, but I need to save my money for my family for the next six months.”

Staying true to yourself will improve your relationships with others as they will trust you to be true to them.

Always think before you answer, consider your prior plans and priorities first. If you are genuinely unsure about your answer, tell the other person when you will get back to them with a firm answer.  If you think it necessary, explain to them why you need time to consider. Stick to the commitment of answering them on the set date.

Be sure not to send mixed messages like, “I don’t think I can, but I want to help.” This is confusing because you are accepting and declining at the same time. If the truth of your answer isn’t hurtful to the other person, share it with them.

“You can still be a good person with a kind heart and still say no.” – Lori Deschene

There are four general steps to saying “no” that will work in most situations without feeling guilty.

First, genuinely compliment the person. Next, give your “yes” or “no” answer. Then, thank them. Finally, encourage the other person.

Example:  “It was nice of you to invite me to the party. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend because I am already committed to assisting my family on that date. Thank you so much for asking. I’m sure we’ll be able to spend some time together soon.”


Most of us are uncomfortable with saying “no” until we understand that we are draining ourselves, and disappointing others if we don’t fulfil the promise. Staying true to our convictions and obligations, being honest and direct, and simply being nice goes a long way toward being able to say “no” without the guilt.

“Anyone who gets upsets or expects you to say yes all the time, does not have your best interest at heart.” –  Stephanie Lahart