Just say no

10 honest strategies on how to say NO, and not feel guilty

Saying no to offers you’re not interested in, especially from a superior or someone trying to pitch a great opportunity to you can be hard. Be honest. We have all experienced this in one way or the other. This could be your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, boss, mentor, colleagues, parents, siblings, a top-ranking company, a client, or a childhood friend: what we call in Akan, “onyonko a mene no b) kosua tafr3”.

For some, it could take days, months, and even years to stand their ground and insist on a “no”. Others, unfortunately, are not able to just say no, ever, especially if you feel indebted to the person may be for saving you from a terrible situation like saving your life, seeing you through school, etc.

Some also say no, without meaning it.

In order to prescribe a solution, you must be able to diagnose the problem. If you have been wondering why then here’s the real reason you can’t say no:

  • You don’t have boundaries or principles

Boundaries and principles are a great way to filter through people. In fact, they direct the right people to you. Are you the person who usually says, “Anything is fine?” Then you’re like a house with a broken wall. Very soon no one will need your permission. It’s easy to be taken for granted, because “it’s fine”. People will hardly take you seriously, even when you genuinely do not like or want something. Speak up, mean it and be it.

Read also: 5 essential reasons why character matters

  • You don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.

Who lived without hurting anyone’s feelings? This thought just got me laughing. See, there’s this colleague at work who rolls her eyes in a manner that feels like an insult. Many people complain about it, but it’s not intentional so she’s trying to be more conscious of her body language.

There are people who will not be satisfied, even if you use all the kind words of Mother Theresa, and stand up for them like Martin Luther King Jnr. or Nelson Mandela.

That is not your problem, it’s theirs.

I’m not saying be insensitive, but is it really worth it, the decision is going to eat you up for years? All I’m saying is, be considerate but not at the expense of loving yourself. Even the good book says: “Love your neighbor as yourself”, not more than yourself or less than yourself.

  • You’re scared of losing continuous support from them.

I bet you enjoy freebies, all the time. Well, not everything that glitters is gold. Get up, find a job if you can.

They say: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”, but if that hand becomes poisonous, you’ll eventually die”. Yeah, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Your body, your mind, knows when something is wrong. Don’t ignore the signs. If it means starting from scratch.

Don’t be embarrassed. Once there is hope, there is life. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. There’s a proverb in French that goes like this: “Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait sont nid”. This means, little by little, a bird builds its nest.

Read also: 4 vicious red flags you should never overlook in life

  • You don’t have confidence in yourself

Why can’t you be outstanding, be different in a positive way, be authentic in your style? I know: “what if they think I’m weird, I become a laughing stock, I’m deserted or I fail? Well, what if you don’t? Don’t be too scared about everything that you tip-toe through life. What you’re the most scared of, is probably what you will be faced it, sooner or later. Say no to low self-image or self-esteem.

Read also: 5 basic self-confidence hacks you need daily


  • You were brought up that way

You may have been brought up to be polite, no matter what, especially to elders.

In Africa, especially, there are a lot of beliefs embedded in our culture that must be reviewed.

How many people prompt others of wrongdoing like littering? You avoid eye contact with elders and keep your hands behind you while speaking to them.

Even in abusive relationships, many parents encourage their children to stay put, eventually leading to death or permanent disability.


Read also: 12 subtle deceptive things the Ghanaian society teaches that no one talks about


  • You want everyone to like you or know that you’re a good person

“Adepa na 3t)n ne ho”, meaning good things market themselves. You don’t need to always prove that you’re good. Exemptions maybe when you’re accused of a crime you didn’t commit or when you need to fill out your appraisal forms with your superior (trust me, it felt wrong to me, but I needed my true self to emerge, lol).

You’re probably scared to take responsibility for your actions, knowing you’re going to lose that person’s friendship altogether. Oh, the most popular thought is, if in the future you ever need the person, they won’t help you because of that.


If you happen to mentally admit to the points above, then we need to do some decluttering or detoxifying.


What you must understand about standing your ground and saying NO!

  • Your boundaries and principles are the easiest way to filter people who aren’t for you.

You can read that again. Not everyone can be your person. If it is a working relationship, you can dissociate or limit yourself from any personal attachment and keep it professional. Talk of sexual harassment and intimidation of any kind. No Sir/Madam, “In this life, you can ki yoursef o”. Life is too short to please everyone, you’ll lose yourself easily.

say no

Read also: Zero-in on self-awareness, by Dzifa Dzigbordi-Dosoo

  • You become more profitable and enjoy a fulfilling life.

For instance, saying no to online fraud or scams, partying all night long almost every day, illicit drugs, and the rest. These are clearly some things we know are harmful. What if they’re not in themselves bad? I mean, hanging out with friends when you have an important appointment to catch, watching series when you should be studying to take a test or an exam. Priorities!

Sometimes, 24 hours in a day is not enough, other times, it may be too much. Planning is key, especially in carving out time to do nothing! Stress kills.

  • You are respected for your values, secretly or openly.

I know someone who does not attend events without at least 3 days prior notice unless it’s an emergency. That’s his principle because it gives him enough time to schedule his activities. Others are;

I think integrity is attractive. It gives a certain innocence to a person’s soul. It makes one feel lighter, look brighter, and helps release stress. These days the things children know and practice are on a different level, but I believe children act upon what they see, hear, and feed on. In actual fact, they really do not stress over so many things.

Saying “NO” doesn’t always mean rejection, so don’t take it the wrong way. It just means you’re not okay with it. No hard feelings. Everyone is “some way”. Be your own “some way”.


Many of my friends ask me how they can deal with situations where they gave an excuse for saying no to an offer, knowing perfectly well it’s a lie. Then, they’re screwed! They are eventually found out sooner or later. Eg. Saying you have a doctor’s appointment on a day your best friend wants to hang out (not a special occasion). Then you meet her at a shopping mall. Are you going to make up another lie? Why not decline the offer, have your peace of mind, and who knows, maybe you may eventually change your mind. You can rest easy then, not looking over your shoulders, struggling to make plans A, B, and the rest.

Now, let’s find out ways you can actually say No and not feel guilty.

Remember that saying NO becomes easier over time, with practice. It’s not automatic, but you should start from somewhere.

  1. Thanks, but I’ll pass. I really don’t feel like it today.

  2. This is not really my thing. Maybe I’ll try it some other time.

  3. Sorry, I have an appointment to catch. Let’s try this some other time.

  4. I’d love to, but my weekend is already booked.

  5. That’s so thoughtful of you, but I’m fine.

  6. Very kind of you but I’d prefer…………………….Thanks.

  7. I like it with…………../without…………………………….

  8. Hmm, looks yummy, but not today (remember the worst thing you ever tasted.

  9. Do not respond right away. Take enough time(use your discretion) to think about it thoroughly. Say something like, “I’ll get back to you on this” or “I’ll think about this” or “I’m not in the right frame of mind. Can we discuss this much later?” Do get back, and this time, with all the confidence you respond and actually mean it.

  10. Simply say “NO”, thanks, without giving any explanation. (Know when to say it like this).

Read also: How to say “NO” politely

Say no

Don’t be like my colleague who says: NO! Period. If you vex, go and burn the sea. It is not my problem. Well, it’s a choice, or the circumstance, as you may be thinking.  Just bear in mind that communication skills are important.

say no

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Written by:

A believer, freelance writer, and kingdom blogger. I believe in bringing out the best in who God has made you be.


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