People often say “yes” in situations where they would like to say no”. The inability to refuse pulls into life unnecessary business and meetings, responsibility, chronic fatigue and the feeling that life is passing by. The only way out is to learn to refuse, which is what we will learn along

 feeling guilty for saying no to work

Why is it important to be able to say “no”

Most often, we agree to requests so as not to offend another, and at the same time put ourselves in an uncomfortable situation, spending our time, money, connections, and energy on something that we personally do not need at all. If you don’t want to become a person who lives solely on the concerns of other people, train to refuse – gently, confidently, without feeling guilty or ashamed.

5 reasons why you shouldn’t be ashamed of being rejected:

  • To refuse means to save your time and energy. By refusing actions that can be delegated, you save both. Of course, if a friend needs support, this cannot be delegated, but a taxi can meet the son of a mother’s friend at midnight at the station, and a courier can pick up a cake for a corporate party.
  • Realistically assessing your capabilities and training to refuse, you will be less tired. There is no extra hour or even five minutes in a day. To schedule help for someone, you need to reschedule or abandon what you planned before.
  • You will avoid moments when you promised and – due to various circumstances – did not. Knowing your load, you will calmly say: “Sorry, I can’t.” And no awkwardness, missed calls, excuses, and blushing cheeks at a meeting if you know how to refuse.
  • When you start to refuse, those who are used to considering you as a human function leave the environment: “negotiate”, “do”, “write”, and “bring”. They, unlike relatives, are not interested in your life and mood, they only pour out requests or give out tasks.
  • The ability to refuse will allow you to focus on your own, not someone else’s priorities, and will bring you closer to your goals.

How to determine if there is a problem?

The inability to refuse hides a disregard for one’s needs and interests, a fear of authority figures, and an unwillingness to seem like a “bad person”. Questions to help determine if there is a problem and analyze it:

  • Who is harder to say no to? An older relative, someone in authority, or someone who seems weaker? Women or men? What figures from childhood do people look like, who is the most difficult to refuse?
  • In what state is there no strength to refuse? Tired, not getting enough sleep, or upset after three cocktails? Or vice versa: do you take on an unbearable number of cases, being in a good mood and physical shape?
  • What is the feeling behind your consent? “I can’t refuse” can harbor guilt, shame, or fear of ruining a relationship. Behind shame and guilt may lie the belief that if you are healthy and successful, then you should help others. Think: who from your environment thinks so? Whose idea is it that being successful is “shameful” and you need to “compensate” for this by helping others: by lending money, arranging their affairs, giving them a ride in your car? How do these beliefs affect you?

Building self-confidence

Effective communication techniques

Don’t apologize and don’t make excuses

The reluctance to spoil the relationship forces you to explain the reason for the refusal. By making excuses, you make it clear that you can try to convince, and insist on your own. Get used to saying no, be firm, and the environment will get used to the fact that “no” means “no”. “Will you make a report on Wednesday?” “No, I can’t on Wednesday.”

Suggest an alternative

In the case when you really want to help or implement a common idea. “Is it convenient for you to meet on Tuesday?” “No, but I can Wednesday or Thursday.” “Will you take the dog to the vet on Friday?” – “No, but I have a free weekend, and I can take her to IVs.”

Don’t cheat

To refuse, your unwillingness is enough, you should not deceive. “I would offer to stay with me, but on those dates, my mother will arrive …” – you make excuses. Imagine the answer: “I can come after her” – and it will become more difficult to refuse. The interlocutor seems to have entered your position, but in fact, he insists on an option that is convenient for him. It’s better to say, “This is inconvenient. Let me help you choose a hotel in a good location.”

Think backlash

Preventing impending tasks is easier than refusing. If you suspect a colleague might be making a request, be proactive and casually say over lunch, “This is such a busy end of the month, wow! To be on time for everything planned. ”

Take the time

It is not necessary to refuse or agree to serious requests or offers right away, take time to think it over. To any “Can you borrow money for me?”, “I will stay with you while the house is being renovated?” answer: “We need to think, let’s discuss it later.”

Learn to say no to bosses

Agreeing to take on more work means the risk of not doing well and on time with the rest of the tasks. Refusal, in this case, is reasonable. Remind your boss what you will have to neglect if you agree, and let him set priorities: “Yes, I can take on this project. What current tasks should I exclude from the list of priorities in order to direct efforts to them?

Building self-confidence

Think of yourself

Do you have the desire, the strength to offer or request? If not, it’s time to refuse: “Let’s go for a walk?” “I’m tired, I want to be at home.” The interlocutor can react adequately (offer to watch a movie or order dinner), or maybe aggressively. If in response to “I’m tired, I don’t want to go for a walk,” you hear a reproach: “Maybe we shouldn’t spend time together at all then?” is manipulation. Don’t settle for it for fear of losing the relationship, but find out what caused the reaction.

How to determine if there is a problem

Interesting on the topic Personal Boundaries: What They Are and Why They Matter

Ignore veiled requests

“Salary at the end of the month, on the card the last thousand for food, and then there’s the move … And the car is being repaired … That’s bad luck!”. Is this a request for help with the transportation of things? No. If an adult needs a favor, it is worth asking for it directly, rather than complaining out loud. There is nothing to refuse or agree to here, transfer the conversation to another topic or express sympathy – maybe a person is waiting for just the opportunity to share experiences.

Show empathy

Treat other people’s difficulties with understanding, without rushing to save. For example: “This is really a difficult task” or: “I’m sorry that you ended up in this situation. I hope you will definitely find a suitable solution – and stop.

Recognize manipulation

A manipulative response to rejection is an attempt to shame you for something you shouldn’t be ashamed of. For example, because you don’t want to skydive “for the company”, because it’s scary, or you don’t like hookahs and you offer to choose another place for a meeting. Learn to refuse and watch for when concessions are required from you instead of finding a compromise.

For example, it is convenient for a partner to meet on Friday, and you have a meeting with your friends that day. And instead of trying to find an option for both of you, he is angry that you will not come when it is convenient for him, drawing incorrect conclusions: “I see that girlfriends are more important to you.”

Set priorities and value your time

If someone’s request takes more than a few minutes for you to fit it into your schedule, get used to refusing – you are already loaded with things, which can and should be said.

Be precise when agreeing to help

Voice what you are ready to do and what you do not intend to do: “I can move your things on the day of the move, but find someone else to load”; “I’ll take the kids to football, but only if they’re ready at 8:15.”

As soon as you start to refuse, you will find that fears of disappointing someone might not come true. Remember that refusing does not mean selfishness or rudeness, but only the limit of your capabilities and desires. By allowing people to violate it, you make yourself a hostage, accumulating irritation and resentment, which will ultimately destroy your relationship with them.


Q: Is it selfish to say no” to others?

A: No, saying no” is not selfish. It is an act of self-care and setting boundaries to prioritize your own well-being.

Q: How can I overcome the guilt of saying no”?

A: Overcoming guilt involves understanding the root causes, prioritizing your needs, and recognizing that saying “no” is necessary for your own well-being.

Q: Will saying no” negatively affect my relationships?

A: Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and understanding. Learning to say no” assertively can lead to better communication and stronger relationships based on trust.

Q: What if someone gets upset when I say no”?

A: It’s important to remember that you can’t control others’ reactions. If someone gets upset, try to have an open and honest conversation to express your perspective and find a resolution.

Q: How can I practice saying no” without feeling guilty?

A: Start by setting small boundaries and gradually build your confidence. Practice self-compassion, remind yourself of your worth, and focus on the positive impact of saying no” on your overall well-being.