A big concern, specially for a people pleaser is how to say no politely. No is a very small word, but it’s really difficult to say no. Yes is the most frequently used word in a people pleasers dictionary. Replacing yes with no for a people pleaser is not easy. No seems to be quite a forbidden word for a lot of people. A lot of the times we are scared of saying no because we feel like it might not considered polite.

There are several reasons why saying no might be considered as not being polite. Some of them may be, you assume that saying no to someone will hurt their feelings, they will not like you anymore and they will not include you in things they do in the future.

Sometimes, we don’t say no because we are worried about being judged as not helpful, too stubborn, selfish and not accommodating.

In a lot of the cultures all over the world no is taken as a sign of disrespect.

For example, in a lot of Asian cultures, when you are invited for a meal at someone’s house, saying no to any of the food served on the table is considered disrespectful. Likewise in a lot of cultures around the world no is not accepted well.

In relationships people might choose to spend the rest of their life with someone because they don’t want to go through the discomfort that comes from saying no.

So many times people realize much earlier that this is not the right person for them but they continue trying to convince themselves otherwise, just so that they don’t hurt other people’s feelings by saying no.

In the dating world people might continue seeing people they are not that into because they don’t want to break the other person’s heart. Or you might avoid texts and calls after the first date because you don’t know how to say no.

At work you might fear that, if you want to move up the corporate ladder then the word no could be perceived as “lacking motivation” or “not ambitious enough”.

Especially women, who might be mothers or have other responsibilities feel the pressure to take on more than their life allows, because they don’t want to be perceived in a negative light.

Saying no will bring up a lot of discomfort, one might not be able to say no without going through the feelings of guilt and anxiety that show up. If you choose not to say no to avoid these feelings, then you will end up in a situation that will make you miserable and unhappy.

Saying no to something is like expressing your needs and it is a vulnerable thing to do. Not expressing your needs protects you from being vulnerable, but might leave you feeling stuck.

How to say no politely to people?

When you say no for something, you might say it in the most polite way possible, but you cannot control how it will be perceived. All you can do is be cognizant of other people’s feelings when setting this boundary and say no the best way you can, feeling as safe as possible while saying no and taking care of your needs. Don’t allow their feelings to change your decision. Just because they feel bad about the no does not mean they don’t like you or you did something wrong by saying no. A person who cares about you might feel bad, but will always understand.

Start with setting some rules for yourself. For example, anytime someone asks you for a favor, make it a rule that you will ask for some time. You can say, “I need to think about it”.

Take some time before you answer. We tend to feel pressured to answering immediately. Ask questions, get more information before you respond. Ask them to send you details about the event and tell them that you will have to get back to them later.

You can say something like, ”I am not sure how I am placed in the next few weeks. Send me the details, I will check my schedule and get back to you.”

The next rule is to actually take that time to think if you really want to do it or not and why. Don’t convince yourself by saying “I will be fine.” “It doesn’t bother me.” “I am free on that day anyway.” you might be available, but you might want to use your time for yourself.

When saying no to something be honest and give a simple reason like “I am busy”, or “not a good time right now”, NOT an explanation.

If you feel like you are not able to complete their request for whatever reason. You can tell them something like, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I will not be able to participate in it or I will not be able to attend it because its a very busy time for me.” You don’t have to give them much explanation.


If you feel like you are not able to complete their request for whatever reason. You can tell them something like, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I will not be able to participate in it or I will not be able to attend it because its a very busy time for me.” You don’t have to give them much explanation.

Some of you might be thinking what if they ask why. You can respond by saying the truth, but you don’t really have to give an explanation. A simple “I am busy” is enough. You don’t need to give them an answer that you think is going to be acceptable to them.

I know it feels weird to say no without any explanation because we are so used to justifying our no’s. However, once you do it a few times it will eventually stop feeling weird.

For someone who is a close friend or work colleague you could also give an alternative.

If it’s someone you value then you could give them another option– For example, if it’s a friend’s birthday and you have had a terrible day. You don’t have the energy to show up pretending like everything is great, then say that to your friend. They might feel bad, but if they are a good friend, they will understand. You can say something like, “I will not be able to make it to your birthday today, I have had a terrible day, let’s hang out tomorrow and have an extended birthday celebration for you.”


If at work someone wants you to do a presentation, but you are too busy to prepare for it, then introduce them to someone else on your team who might be happy to take it on.

Imagine you have planned a trip with your best friend after a long time, you were imagining a relaxed weekend with a good friend. You get a call from your friend a couple of days before the trip saying that they want to invite someone else on the trip.

You don’t like that idea, but you are worried about saying no, because that might make you look bad. Well, you can approach this situation by saying that, “I was looking forward to just us hanging out on this trip and reconnecting after so long, let’s just keep it to us this time.”

Another situation that comes up a lot is telling someone that you have met for a couple of dates that you might not be interested. You can say something like, “It was really good to know you, but it looks like we might not be a good fit because our needs or interests don’t align.”

You don’t need to apologize- You have the choice to accept or decline someone’s request. You might express that you feel sad that you are unable to accommodate their request, but you don’t have to apologize. You are not being impolite or doing 

anything wrong by declining one’s request. Check out the article on how to set emotional boundaries to learn more about boundary setting.

Saying no will come with practice and showing patience and compassion to yourself when you are not able to say no. Connecting with yourself, identifying your needs and prioritizing yourself will gradually make it easier to know what you want to say no to. Give yourself time to lean how to say no in a way that you consider polite.

Not being able to say no results in people pleasers paying a very high cost. The dangers of being a people pleaser will give you look into how not setting this boundary might affect a people pleaser.

Working through people pleasing and your core beliefs associated with saying no will help work through the uncomfortable feeling that comes up when you think of saying no. Check out how to stop being a people pleaser for a few tips.

Check out the article on are you a people pleaser to see if it resonates with you.

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