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  • Writer's pictureBrigitte Granger

10 Ways to Say No Without Feeling Bad About It

Hitting your goals requires focus. If you’ve had the same goal for a while, but haven’t been able to make progress, consider whether you’re truly giving it the dedicated time and energy that it deserves.

A lot of time, the reason why people aren’t dedicating enough time to their pursuits is because they have too many other commitments competing for their attention. If you don’t prioritize what’s most important, your time and energy will be distributed across multiple areas, instead of the thing that matters the most. If everything’s important, then nothing is!

It’s time to start saying no.

Protect your time and start teaching the people in your life that you aren’t always available for a favors. The next time you’re asked to plan a party, meet a stranger for coffee, or pet sit, fight the urge to jump to yes and instead, embrace the discomfort of setting boundaries.

Setting boundaries isn’t easy, especially for people-pleasers. Many people (so-called Obligers, myself included) easily meet the expectations of others, but struggle to meet their own goals. As a result, you resent the people asking for favors and feel disappointed in your own lack of progress.

Sound familiar? If this is you, you may find that the first few times that you set boundaries, the people in your life will be surprised because they’re used to you dropping everything at a moment’s notice to be helpful. Have faith – through consistent reinforcement, you can set the right expectations and start making headway on your top priority. Plus, you’re strengthening your relationship because you’re working to prevent your own resentment (not to mention supporting your own mental well-being and avoiding burnout).

Researcher Brené Brown summarizes this well,

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. We can't base our own worthiness on others' approval (and this is coming from someone who spent years trying to please everyone!). Only when we believe, deep down, that we are enough can we say ‘Enough!’”

You are more than the favors you do for people.

This is your permission to start saying no. Saying no to obligations means saying YES to your own aspirations. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of 10 phrases you can say to start setting boundaries and pursuing a greater you.

1. I wish I could, but I can’t.

By saying “I can’t” instead of “I won’t,” you’re implying that your inability to commit to someone else’s priorities is not possible. It becomes less about you refusing to help and more about you acknowledging your own needs.

2. Let me get back to you.

You don’t owe anyone an immediate response, especially if they’re asking you for a favor. Taking some time to think about the request, deciding if you can do it, and how you might respond makes a huge difference by putting you in control so that you aren’t simply reacting to a social pressure.

3. I’m not able to commit, but maybe I can connect you with someone who can.

If a request presents a great opportunity and you want to help in a low-commitment capacity, pay it forward by making a connection with someone who does have the time and energy to take on the task.

4. I’m not able to take on other commitments at this time.

This phrase implies a few things: 1. That your ability to do more is out of your hands, 2. That you have prior commitments, and 3. That this is your current availability at this time – things can change in the future.

5. I’m not able to give this the attention it deserves.

You’re acknowledging the importance of the ask, while also explaining that you can’t support the needs of this specific project.

6. I’m not the best person for this.

Again, this implies that you recognize how important this person or action is and that you cannot support it fully. Bonus points if you can suggest someone would be (with their permission first).

7. I don’t feel comfortable doing that.

A true friend would be hard-pressed to push you on something once you’ve stated it makes you uncomfortable. This is a helpful statement to use when you don’t have an obvious conflict that you can point to and simply have no desire to partake.

8. Now is not a good time.

This can be a useful phrase if you are going through something personal or are helping someone through a difficult situation. It also keeps the door open for future opportunities if indeed you would otherwise be interested at another time if not for your competing priorities.

9. I’m maxed out at the moment/My plate is full

Simply acknowledge how busy you are. If you don’t start saying no, no one else will do it for you.

10. I do not do X.

If you get the sense that a favor will become a regular demand and it’s not a one-time thing (e.g., babysitting, lending money, rides to the airport), channel your inner Meat Loaf and state that you don’t do THAT (whatever it is you are being asked to do) as a matter of principle. Of course, you have to mean it, because if you’re caught doing that same favor for someone else, it will reflect poorly on you.


Hopefully this list provides you with suggestions on how to say no without feeling guilty about it. If you find that people get upset or angry when you establish a boundary, remember that you don’t have to explain yourself or give additional reasons. Simply repeat the phrase above (or whichever phrase you use). While providing an explanation may make you feel kind because you’re helping the other person see where you’re coming from, they may take this as an opportunity to negotiate, when instead, you want to convey that your decision is final. Use your best judgment to determine if saying less is more for a given situation.

To inspire you to commit to what’s most important to you, Supporti’s created the Wheel of Life Printable that lets you assess how you’re doing across eight different areas of your life (relationships, health, career, etc.) and where you have opportunities to improve. Download your printable copy from our Etsy shop today!


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