6 Tips For Saying No When You Don't Like Letting People Down

6 Tips For Saying No When You Don’t Like Letting People Down

A while back, I wrote a post called 5 Times You’ll Be Happy You Said No. It was a hit! Not tooting my own horn, but so many people seem to really resonate with the idea of saying “no” and how we boggle ourselves down in commitments we don’t necessarily have the time or desire to do because we want to be “nice” or “liked.” I know that saying you should say “no” is easy but I know the actual execution of it can be hard.

It can be hard because we don’t like letting people down, but also because some people don’t like to take “no” for an answer.

When it comes to taking requests it’s important that you consider what, ‘yes’’ really means. Does it mean you’ll have to sacrifice something? Does it mean you’ll have to do something out of your comfort zone or that goes against your core values? Will it put you in a position that takes away the hard work you’re doing towards your goal?

If you are like me and work a full-time job while running your own business and trying to have a personal life then you have to learn how to say “no.” It really is simple, you can’t do everything. My friend Ashley always says, “You can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything.” You can say yes to anything you want but you can’t say yes to everything… stick with me it kind of works. You have to know what you want and you have to be able to recognize when things aren’t for you and you have to  get comfortable with letting others know that.

6 Tips For Saying “No”

Don’t Let It Linger

The worst thing you can do is it act like you’re considering saying yes when your answer is “no.” If your “no” your answer is “no” then you should go ahead and say so. Have you ever invited someone to something that you had an extra ticket to or a plus one and they told you, “I’ll let you know,” then at the last minute told you that they couldn’t make it so you had to go alone? I am more than okay doing things by myself but there are certain things that are more fun with a friend. Had they just told you ahead of time you could have asked someone else to go with you but they waited till it was too late? Don’t you hate that? Don’t do that to other people. If you don’t want to or can’t do something let them know so they can ask someone else.

Don’t Over Explain

The fastest way you can turn your “no” into a “yes” is talking too much. We as humans start talking about all the reasons we can’t do something then start moving things around to make something fit into our schedule we had “no” desire to fit in any way. It’s a slippery slope.

“I can’t babysit tonight because I really need to finish some stuff for the blog…Well, the kids go to bed at 9 so maybe I can do it once they go to sleep. Yeah, I’ll babysit.” That happened so fast!”

I used to sell insurance and in sales training, I remember learning this super simple technique to get people to talk themselves out of their own objections, you ask them a question and just stay quiet. People by nature don’t like silence it makes them uncomfortable so they will just keep talking to fill the silence. This is how we talk ourselves out of things and into things. We just keep rambling to fill the silence and then subconsciously (And sometimes consciously) the other person just stays silent till they get an answer they like.  I’m not saying your friends, family and coworkers are doing this to you on purpose but that it just tends to be human nature.

Don’t go too far into detail. KISS. Keep it simple stupid.

Saying no doesn't have to be hard. KISS! Keep it simple stupid. Click To Tweet

Don’t Apologize

From an early age, we are taught to apologize when we do something wrong. Guess what, using your freedom of choice to decline an invitation or request isn’t wrong. So don’t apologize. Apologizing  by nature gives us the impression of wrongdoing which gives us the feeling of guilt. Don’t apologize just answer respectfully. “No, I can’t babysit tonight I have other things to take care of.” You don’t have to apologize for having your own priorities, plans, and preferences.

Don’t Let Yourself Be Bullied

Sometimes people will hear no, accept it and move on, then there are the people who won’t hear you at all. They are the “sleazy sales types,” who have an objection for everything you say. This person doesn’t hear “ no,” they hear “maybe” and “not yet.”

Remember how earlier I said people say yes because they want to be liked?  Bullies know this. They will use 5 tactics to get you to say yes, guilt, persistence, sympathy, compliments, and bargaining.

Here is what some of this might look like, so you can have an idea on how to spot it.

Guilt: “Come on, Lily! I helped you finish up those reports last. It won’t even take that long. You owe me!

Persistence: “I really want to go to happy hour after work what do you think….oh come on.” 2 hours later, “Are you going to come to happy hour? I need a drink!” An hour later, “Did you change your mind?”

Sympathy: “Please. I haven’t had a night out in so long. If you just watch the kids for a few hours it would help me out so much. I am so stressed out right now. Please”

Compliments: “I know you’re busy but you are the best baker I know. It’s only 4 pies. You can just quadruple the ingredients and I’m sure with your skill it will be so easy!”

Bargaining: “Okay, you can’t work all day Saturday but what about a few hours after your nephew’s soccer game. You can just come straight from there and it’s Saturday so you can just stay in your casual clothes.”

Offer a Different Solution

You can’t always solve the problems of others but sometimes you can make hearing the, “No” a little easier for the other person if you offer a bit of a consolation. Don’t feel obligated to do this but if it is something you really would like to do but just don’t have the time or money then this might be a good way to show interest but still properly decline.

“That sounds like such a fun trip but I can’t right now. Maybe I can go next year or we can plan a smaller trip later in the year.”


“I can’t volunteer to work the Casino night but if you want to send me a copy of the invitation, I will be happy to share it with my friends.”

They may not be walking away with the thing they had hoped for but they will at least feel like they have a small win.

You should never feel guilty for saying “no.” The right people in your life will respect that decision and the people who don’t probably need to get used to people telling them “no”.

Remember sometimes “no” isn’t just a good choice for you but it can also be helpful for the person asking the favor. Your “no” gives them the opportunity to get a “yes” from someone else. When you say “no” they can give that extra concert ticket to someone else, get an event coordinator who really is excited about their cause or go to that wedding with a date who actually might be romantically interested in them.

Say “Yes” Sometimes.

Only say yes when you’re sure. Here is the thing, I’m not telling you to be a negative Nancy and say “no” to everything, I’m telling you to get comfortable saying “no” when you truly want to say “no” or can’t do the thing you’re being asked.

Saying yes sometimes is how you have new experiences, meet new people, learn new skills and advance your current ones. It is all about balance!

I do want to throw out this simple reminder that it is always better to say, “No” up front then to say a very enthusiastic, “Yes,” then follow it up with 9th hour, “no.” It makes you look flaky, unreliable and honestly, rude.

Disclaimer:  I know that people might read this post and go down the troll path or try to make things cut and dry, “If you want to say no, just say no.” If that is how you operate then that is awesome. This post isn’t for you and that’s fine! 🙂  But a lot of people have trouble letting other people down and this is for them. This is written for the young woman who is trying to find her path and doesn’t want it to be taken over by the demands of others. To her, I say, “You got this! Little by little becomes a lot, my friend.”


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