How to say no and not feel guilty about it

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Have you ever felt guilty for people-pleasing?

Imagine it’s been a long tiring week, so you’re now spending some “me time” on a fine Sunday afternoon. That’s when you receive a text from someone. They are asking if you’d like to spend time with them outside. Or perhaps you get an email from ‘that’ colleague who likes to dump all their office work on your shoulders. Or you receive a call from your ex looking for reconciliation after a toxic relationship.

You’re overwhelmed with mixed emotions be it guilt and pity, and you definitely don’t want to be that villain who says “no”. So what do you do? Just go with the flow, and say “yes” at the cost of your mental peace.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions, have trouble saying “no” to others, and need practical tips to keep yourself sane while maintaining healthy boundaries with others, keep reading the article as we’re going to explore why saying “no” is unselfish.

Saying “NO” to others is not always selfish

“Sometimes ‘No’ is the kindest word.” — Vironika Tugaleva

The 2-letter word “no” has gained a bad reputation over the years. Anybody who exercises healthy boundaries has no trouble saying “no”. But most of us are not equipped to confidently refuse someone or decline an offer when it projects itself in front of us. Simply because we want to be loved, be accepted, be cooperative with others as opposed to being perceived as stubborn who does what they please.

Societal norms have taught us to conform to a particular standard. If everybody is involved in an activity, so should we. If someone is asking for something, we should say yes promptly. Even if it means hurting ourselves in the process.

But did you know that saying no can be helpful for you and for them? It may sound difficult at the moment, but if you fully comprehend the consequences of the decision to say “no”, you’re doing a favor to yourself and the other person. And perhaps, indirectly teaching them to take ownership of their life choices. You can start by evaluating the benefits of saying yes or no and conclude the best decision that’s right for you and for them.

1. Saying no to your toxic partner can be helpful in preventing you and them from a future of grief and sadness.

2. Saying no to a pushy friend for a party every night is good for them to feel discouraged from pursuing a bad habit of perpetually drinking and smoking.

3. Saying no to your child from grabbing a chocolate bar before dinner is preventing them from unnecessary snacking and promoting healthy eating habits.

If you think about it, saying no actually has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with them. It’s for their well-being, for their future, and for their long-term happiness.

In that case, whether saying no is selfish or unselfish becomes irrelevant.

Saying “NO” and authenticity

Saying yes for the wrong reasons means there’s a disparity between what you say and what you feel. It’s a soul-crushing behavioral trait that sneaks up on you. Feelings of anxiety and resentment will build up inside like a volcano propelling you to one day feel overly saturated. You’re giving away time, energy, emotions on things that don’t matter much.

Besides, a pro tip that’ll change your perspective about saying no is:

If you don’t know how to say no, that means you also don’t know how to say yes. By saying no to wrong things, you’re missing out on saying yes to the right things.

If you think you’re saying yes because this will make you “seem” like a good person in front of others, or you’ll be perceived as a goody two shoes who behaves well and is cooperative with everyone, then you have to stop.

Because this is not the authentic you.

Tips for saying “NO”

1. Evaluate your options

For someone who said “yes” all their lives, your thought process needs to change if you want to learn how to say “no”. So, when a situation projects itself in front of you that you’re not comfortable with, first and foremost, do think if this is worth your time and energy. Carefully make sense of the situation at hand by asking yourself, “what’s in it for me?”. After evaluating, perhaps, you can arrive at a conclusion whether it’s right to say yes or no.

2. Be assertive and polite

Definitely one of the most commonly used methods. It’s an opportunity for you to hide behind a curtain of assertiveness while being polite, where you can state your exact reasoning behind your “no”. Perhaps, your calendar is fully blocked, or you genuinely have other commitments. Or even if you’re willing to stay home and not do anything, you can assertively explain that you want to unwind and relax because you had a tough week. Something along similar lines. This makes you the sort of person who can be authentic with the people around you while being polite with your responses and overall behavior.

3. Offer an alternative option

This may apply to your child’s snacking habit. When you say no to your child’s desire to have chocolate before dinner, you can offer an alternative. Perhaps, they can have a piece of chocolate once they finish their dinner. Or they can be rewarded with a chocolate bar if they eat all the vegetables served for dinner. Providing an alternative solution involves you going one step ahead and being action-oriented by keeping their best interest in your heart. You’re not just helping them by saying no, you’re also solidifying a good habit in their mind.

4. Pose a question back to them

Mostly applicable to an office setting. If your boss assigns you another task on top of a tight agenda, perhaps, you can repeat the assignment back to them and end with a question such as, “Sure, this can be done. But I will need extra 2 weeks to be able to finish everything with high quality. Does this sound good to you?”

5. Practice

If suddenly saying no sounds daunting to you, it’s totally understandable. Perhaps you can try practicing in front of a mirror. It may sound silly, but it’ll help you gain a sense of confidence to apply the same in the outside world. You could practice with lines such as, “This sounds like a very good opportunity but I would like to respectfully decline. Hope you understand, thank you.”


Remember, you’re not obligated to give up your precious time and energy on anything that steals away your mental peace and happiness. You have personal freedom and autonomy to put your priorities first. In fact, maintaining a healthy boundary with people has always been known to promote mental health.

After all, you never know, the people you say no to might not even think about it for more than a second before moving on to somebody else. All that hesitation to say no might be in your head and this awareness can help you realize that.

So it’s time to look after yourself. Make the right choice, you’ll feel liberated, uplifted, and be able to invest your time in people and experiences that help you progress in the right direction!

Albot Health

Albot Health

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