How can I Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Lauren Romano

Life can be incredibly busy, but it may be even more so if you have a problem saying no without feeling guilty. After awhile, doing requests for others may become priority even if means that you’re inconvenienced and your schedule becomes more hectic. If the word yes is frequent in your vocabulary, there are ways to say no without feeling guilty.

Thinking about the underlying causes of guilt may help alleviate the feeling.
Thinking about the underlying causes of guilt may help alleviate the feeling.

If guilty feelings creep up after you say no, one of the primary steps to consider trying is discovering why you say yes so much in the first place. Looking internally could be the best place to start. Think about why the guilt is there, what feelings are being experienced and why saying no is so difficult.

Working on self-confidence may help in the effort to say no instead of always saying yes. The guilt could be so overwhelming because you’re worried about pleasing others above yourself, which may be a sign of a lack of confidence. Consider trying to achieve a goal you’ve always wanted to accomplish as a way of improving your self-confidence. It may be a simple way to begin the process of saying no by working on what could be the root of the issue.

When someone approaches with a request, listen to yourself and be conscious of your feelings in order to determine if it’s a request worth doing. Make every attempt to push the guilt away and focus on the other feelings that are present. If there are any doubts that you can’t or shouldn’t go through with the request, kindly say no.

Before immediately saying yes, you should make every effort to be respectful of your time by taking a few moments to think about your schedule. Consider if saying yes would put a strain on other obligations that are already taking up time. Time is valuable as it is, so make sure not to overextend yourself or sacrifice any time that is precious in order to do something you’re not interested in doing.

In order to say no without feeling guilty, try to take it day by day and treat each request individually. Saying no may not be easy at first, but it just takes a bit of work. Avoid getting down on yourself or thinking that you’ve failed. The more confident you get in your ability to say no, the more it may be easier to say in the future without having the guilty feelings.

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Discussion Comments


Some people think that a flat out "no" is kind of rude. But there are other ways of saying no too.

I usually find an excuse, whether I really have one or not. At least it gives me the justification to reject a request. If I really have something to do, then there is nothing I can do about it. I will apologize and say how I wish I would have done that if I could.

If I don't really have an excuse and I just don't want to do something, I will say something along the lines of "I feel like staying home today, I had a rough week, I'm going to stay in and rest." We are all human, we need time for ourselves too. We need to exercise, eat, sleep, watch TV and do absolutely nothing at times. There is nothing shameful about it. And if you have trouble getting the words out, use any excuse to say no indirectly.


I think this may also have to do with the way we were brought up by our families and even our culture.

I have an Asian friend who is seeing a counselor right now and trying to learn how to say no to people without feeling bad about it. She told me that in her culture, it is rude to say no. The answer is either a yes or silence, which actually means no.

Ever since she has moved abroad, she has started having issues with her interactions. She has been sexually harassed by two men in the past year. She told me that because she is unable to say no, men understand this to be approval to hit on her.

It's really sad that even though she comes from a culture where this is the norm, she is having terrible experiences because she cannot express her feelings. The counseling has helped her a lot though. She is doing much better and I hope these experiences won't repeat again.

I don't know how common my friend's experience is. Still, I think that it's especially important for women to learn to say no. In the U.S., we are taught that no means no and yes means yes. If women know that it is more important to communicate their feelings and wants rather than keeping everyone happy, it might be less likely for them to be in situations they don't want to be in.


I also feel that the inability to say no is because of a lack of self-esteem. I have had this problem with people I deeply care for, like a family member or a significant other. I have been so concerned with making them happy and so fearful of disappointing them, I could do anything for them, even it had bad consequences for me.

With time though, I realized that although I always think of others first, they don't do the same for me. I realized that I am often mistreated and even ignored by the people whom I do everything for and I don't want to be that person.

The truth is, if we don't value ourselves and our feelings, other people won't either. If you say yes to someone all the time, even though you are tired, sick or just not feeling like doing anything, you are not valuing yourself. And I believe that eventually, that person will not value you either.

We have to love ourselves first and treat ourselves well. You can still say yes, but just when you really want to!

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