The Power Of Saying No, And Why It’s So Difficult

One of the most difficult things for people to say is no. We don’t wish to let anyone down or appear difficult by saying no, and because of this often feel that we can’t ask for what we deserve.

A 2015 case study discusses how a considerable amount of human behavior is influenced by the desire to avoid rejection. We operate on beliefs to remain in the good graces of other group members. We behave to gain acceptance, which makes us more likely to say yes to things; we otherwise should have said no. So how do we do this?

 Many psychologists deduce that our beliefs originate from what we’ve heard since childhood, our environment, and past experiences. But beliefs can be broken, especially negative ones that stop us from valuing ourselves and our time.

You’re Letting Them Down

While untrue, harmful to ourselves, it also shows that we care more about others than we do about ourselves.

You’ve Made A Commitment

In most cases, people will understand if you have to say no at short notice, especially if you’re someone who rarely ever says no. The fear of saying no, and creating a boundary, is what keeps us in a loop of feeling trapped.

You Can’t Turn Down An Opportunity

Sometimes good moments come knocking, but it doesn’t mean we always have to answer. We may believe we shouldn’t say no to moments that present themselves, but sometimes these opportunities aren’t right for us and warrant a no even if it’s not what we have been taught.

How to Say No, Kindly 

It isn’t nice when we have to say no. The Power of No, published in PsychologyToday, explains that we need to understand that we value our own time and aren’t willing to be dictated into guilt by allowing others to influence us. Sometimes, we need to say no, and say yes to the things we want to do.


  • Sometimes you will feel guilty, but that doesn’t mean we have to say yes.
  • You don’t owe anyone a reason, even if they ask for one.
  • You can’t please everyone, because sometimes it’s not about you but them.
  • Saying no doesn’t always feel nice, but we will appreciate it later.

Examples You Can Use:

I’m Busy Right Now. Can I Have A Think About It?

This one is specific to those moments where you’re asked to do more than you have time for. Saying no doesn’t always mean saying no forever. Give yourself time to process and analyze what is best for you and what you have to give.

I’m Going To Have To Say No, But We Could Plan Something Next Week

Often, we want to say no to larger, more time-consuming things we don’t feel we have the patience or energy for. Saying the above and offering an alternative provides you with the option to meet them in the middle, relieving some guilt on your side without committing to something you don’t want to do.

No, I Can’t (Because I Have…) 

A courteous but straightforward option. Your choice in this alternative is whether you explain why you’re saying no, but be cautious about not providing too much information. Remember, you don’t owe someone an explanation as to why.

Unfortunately, I’m Busy Then, But Thank you

Sometimes we are just busy, and that is okay. We can’t do it all, and no one can argue with the truth as long as it is the truth. Adding a thank you or a ‘next time’ will provide a polite end to the request.

Let Me Think About It/Let Me Check My Calendar

While similar to the first, this one is best for those attempting to persuade you to say yes. It provides time and space to collect your thoughts and get back to them, or not depending on how complicated the individual is.

While not an extensive list, it’s a good starting point for any struggling to say no. When saying no, remind yourself why you are saying it, which will help alleviate any guilt.


  • Sathyanarayana Rao, T.S. Asha, M.R, 2009. The Biochemistry of Belief
  • Leary, M., Emotional Responses To Interpersonal Rejection.
  • , 2013.