16 Ways to Graciously and Assertively Say "no"
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16 Ways to Graciously and Assertively Say "no"

Ways to say no without saying no. Learn the best ways to say no without feeling guilty or bad.

Many of us find saying "no" difficult. Why is this? The reasons vary.  Sometimes, we feel guilty because we believe that we have not done our part.  Another reason is we don't want to disappoint others. Still another reason may be we have never learned to stand up for ourselves and be assertive. Often times we are afraid others will dislike us if we say "no". The latter somehow ties our self-esteem into refusing a request. Constantly saying "yes" or passively saying "no" to requests can lead to burnout and a lack of respect for yourself.

Learning how to graciously and assertively say "no" is an acquired skill. When saying “no” you don’t want to sound too defensive or apologetic, however, you must be firm. If you are defensive it may cause you to appear unapproachable; and if you are too apologetic you may be pressured into doing something that you do not have the time or desire to do. Saying “no” should build confidence and preserve the dignity of each person involved.

While refusing a request, the goal is to create a win-win situation. You want to be able to say “no” without feeling guilty and make the other person(s) feel confident in approaching you or others in the future. There are many ways to say “no” without lying, being pushy, aggressive or passive. 

Some ways to assertively and graciously say "no" are: 

"I wish I could commit to that, but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed."

"If only you had asked me last week."

"I really can't, however, that sounds like something (name of person), would enjoy doing."

"I would love to do that, but I just don't have the time in my schedule."

"I really cannot say yes at this time."

"It is difficult for me to say no, but I'm going to pass this time."

"Before I say yes, let me check my calendar."

"You caught me at a bad time, if there is something that I can help with in the future, please let me know."

"I don't want to commit and then disappoint you."

"Oh, I wish I could; “Maybe some other time."

"It sounds like something that I would enjoy doing, but currently I'm not taking on any new responsibilities."

"I’d love to help, but I have already overextended myself."

“I can’t do (whatever the request is), but I can do (something that you are willing to do).”

“Please let me think about it and get back with you on (day or date).”

“It sounds like a great opportunity, but I’m going to have to pass on this one.”

The more you consider your needs and value your time the easier saying “no” will become.

More Reasons to Say No

If you should say yes to any request without thinking about it first, you might later think about it and wish you had said no in the first place. After saying yes, you later decide you really do not or cannot help this person. And this makes it worse because then you have to tell this person no, after they were counting on your help.

Getting into the habit of saying no, unless you are sure right that saying yes is the right choice. When you say no, and later you think about it and change your mind, you can always call this person and tell them that you can help them after all.

This is much better than saying yes and then having to tell this person no. 

By getting into the habit of saying no, without feeling bad or guilty will save you a lot of aggravation in the future by agreeing when you really didn’t want to say yes.

Helping others is a nice thing to do, and you never know, you might want or need their help at some time in the future. But it is important to get into the habit of just saying yes without thinking it over first.


This is a tough one actually. If a friend or relative asks to borrow money from you, it can be hard to say no. You might be in a position to help, and would love to help, but lending money is a tough thing to do for several reasons as it can harm future relationships if you are not paid back.

And if you really cannot afford to lend money, then saying yes could really end up hurting you in the future. This is the time to just say no.

If you do lend money to a friend or relative, then do not expect to be paid back. In your mind, look at it more like a charity instead of a loan.

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Comments (2)

Oooh, this is really good! And something I'd wish I'd learned many years ago as a child, because learning to say no was hard, but it is doable and it is nice not to feel responsible for doing things that you really wouldn't think about doing as well as feeling pressured because of not wanting to disappoint others.

This is really excellent. Im with Sara and Clairsie, I wish I had learnt to say no earlier, I would have a had a lot less stress and guilt. Thanks thesassydiva! x