You may find yourself in situations where you would like to say “no” however, doing so is difficult for you. There are different reasons why this may occur. You may feel guilty if you do not respond to a request someone else poses or you may want to please others. Sometimes, a person may feel scared to say “no” and by doing so that person would end up complicated their life even more. When someone gives in to a request they might also be trying to avoid conflict. Being assertive and saying “no” is a skill which some people need to practice. The following are a few tips which can help you learn how to say “no” and feel okay about it.

Try to understand why you are saying “no” to something – It is important to understand what your priorities are. Once you figure this out it will be easier for you to identify how you want to spend your free time. So if someone asks you to hang out and for you it is more important to go to the gym, be honest and tell the other person so. You can reschedule to meet up on another day when it is convenient for both of you.

Offer a choice – Offering an alternative can help the other person not to feel let down by you saying “no” to them. When you cannot help someone, show them that you are still there for them by listening to them and trying to understand their situation. When you show empathy towards someone you would be trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This creates a connection and the person feels understood.

Focusing on the request and not the person – When you say “no” make it about the request and not about the person. If you cannot help someone it’s nothing personal. If someone asked you to lend them something and you do not want to, explain gently why this is so.

Practise saying “no” – If you are not used to saying “no” then you need to start practising doing so. Being assertive means that you can feel confident to say “no”. Practising this skill as often as you can is a good way to get better at saying it whilst feeling comfortable. If someone keeps insisting, be persistent yourself.

Take time to think about a request – If you are not sure about the response you want to give take some time to think about it. Instead of providing an answer immediately it is often better to tell the person that you will give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you decide that you cannot take on the request let them know by telling them that you have thought about it however, due to other commitments you need to say “no”.



Collingwood, J. (2016). Learning To Say No. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 27, 2018, from


Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties.