A guide for the people pleasers

How to say no
How to say no nicely


No, you are not a rude or selfish person for wanting to say no. This is the first idea that I would like to put forward before even starting on talking about how to refuse or reject something you do not want to take part in.

We go with the affirmative answer because we consider saying no is an impolite way to reply to someone’s request. How many times have you put yourself in trouble as you did not have the heart to say no? Why should we continue to do something which would put us in trouble?

I know it is hard to refuse and reject a request comfortably when in your entire life you have been taught and shown that being supportive and helpful is the right thing to do. But instead of pulling out a “sure, I will” with a fake smile while your heart collapse knowing you committed to a task that you cannot afford to, you can try these tricks to reply with an honest, kind and genuine no.

How to say no nicely


This is a question that intrigued me a lot. If you have ever been around a toddler, you will be clear of a young human’s capacity to reply in negative. There will be big loud No s when you are dealing with a toddler. “No, I want to do it by myself”, “No, I do not want to eat it” “No, I am not sleepy” and the list goes on.  The young child who was completely fine in saying no grows up to be an adult and feels guilty for using the same word.

Let me take you back to the past where we lived in caves as herds. Strong interrelationships were critical for survival even before this Stone Age. The evolution convinced us of the significance of being a member of a social group so we are biologically concerned about our relationship with other people, even with a stranger.

This is why we are naturally bothered about what other people will feel and think about us. We see a negative reply as a threat to our relationship with another person so we do not feel comfortable saying no.

Toddlers are just only trying to assert their individuality and dominance, which is a new concept to them. They do not realize the depth of social relationships until they grow up. There can be exceptions depending on social, cultural, and personal backgrounds but this is the most logical answer we can provide to the question of why saying no is difficult.


You were tired, were tight on schedule or money but still, you decided to agree because it did not feel right to say no. I am guilty of this but is it not that our physical and mental wellbeing we have suppressed? Is it fair to put yourself under stress and risk for the sake of being helpful?

The most loved person by you should be yourself. If you never say no to what is not convenient for you to perform, you will be unhappy even if other people will perceive you as a nice and supportive friend. Is it worth it?

On the other hand, does being affirmative help you to maintain better relationships? There are only twenty-four hours in a day and all the work you can do is confined to this limit. The helping hand you can extend is also limited by this factor of time.

You will say yes to your colleague and cover up for his work but you will miss your free time with your kids. You will compromise the quality of one relationship to maintain the other. The conclusion is you cannot please everyone and excel at every social relationship. You have to pick and prioritize the important relationships that you care about and say no to others.

How to say no nicely


As I mentioned before, saying no is not a crime, and refusing to do what you cannot do will never break a real connection. So whatever method you follow, be confident when you say no. If you sound weak, fragile, and fake, it will not properly communicate what your “no” really meant.


“The positive, the negative, and the positive”.  Start with a nice comment about the person or the request. Then slowly bring out why you cannot agree with him or her. Before winding up the conversation spice it up with another phrase of appreciation. Your comments should not be exaggerations that will make you sound fake.

Imagine a situation where your friend invites you to a party. But you cannot join them because you have an exam next week and have to study throughout the weekend.  You can sandwich your response like this.

  • POSITIVE – “It is very nice of you to invite me. I am sure it is going to be so much fun”
  • NEGATIVE – “But I really have to stay home study cuz I have an exam next week. I work through the week so the weekend is my only free time, you know”
  • NEGATIVE – “Thank you so much again for the invitation.  I am going to miss all the fun but I will definitely join next time when the exams are over”


If it is too difficult to say no to a person directly, then try another channel of communication. A text or an email or whatever method which is comfortable can be used to communicate your disagreement. Be honest, genuine, and direct. How will you reply to the person if you were talking face to face? Text, email, or call in the same way. This is a less stressful option in saying no.

Taking the same example of rejecting a party invitation from a friend, you can promise them to check your schedule and text them whether you will be able to join them. Then you can come home and conveniently text your response without panicking about your response.


There are some moments you can offer suggestions to the requests which will help them to solve their problem without your help. This is not an obligation. You can simply refuse and leave it there but if you can do more to help them, just do it. It can be a suggestion for an alternative solution to fulfill their need or providing a resource that can help them.


When someone makes a request, you will not be able to provide them with the exact same solution they expect, but you can offer them an alternative solution that will still fulfill their needs.

Your friend wants you to tutor her for the exam coming up in the next month. She wants you to help her with two modules which will consume your only free day in the week. But you can help her with one of the modules by tutoring her in the evenings of your working days. In this way, you will not commit to a responsibility that will affect your personal life but will still reflect your willingness to help and be supportive.


Providing a resource means you direct the person who asks for a favor to another person or source which will help to solve their problem. Extending the problem where you do not have time to tutor your friend,

  • you can provide her with the study material you used for that module
  • or direct her to another friend who is good at it and can tutor her.

Same as in providing an alternative solution, you will refuse to do what they initially requested but you will make sure that their problem is solved.


I have highlighted the need to say no to live a better life. It does not mean that you should be a selfish and self-centered person and say no to everything that comes in your way. We should support people and be happy about their success.

My point is that it should not happen at the compromise of your own mental and physical wellbeing. You should be able to say no to whatever affects your life negatively. Nevertheless,  it should never stop you from being generous with another person when you can.