How to Say No Without Feeling the Need to Explain Yourself

Doris Kono
4 min readJul 30, 2022


A people pleaser, that’s what they call people like us. Those of us who never dare to say no.

To my fellow mates, do you ever feel like you just want to say no and get over with it? Well! I do. And most of the time, it usually doesn’t work out for me.

Image form

So, at the end of the day, yes is my answer. Even when it is not the answer I want to give. Even if it means foregoing my plans or when it’s clear that I will be stretched in some way. I will still do that one ‘favour’ for my friend.

I have always had a hard time saying no, especially to the people close to me, and sometimes even to people I barely know. In such situations, am often bombarded with thoughts of how is she going to feel if I say no. Will I hurt her feeling? Is she going to think of me as a bad person? Will she remain my friend after today?

The guilt of what they’ll think of me is what compels me to give an answer I do not want to give. Even if it means compromising my freedom, happiness, or even time.

I hate admitting it to myself, but this is one thing I hate about myself. I am a people pleaser. That I will do anything even if it means cancelling my plans just to please others. That I can go to great lengths so that others do not view me as selfish.

The worst thing is that I always regret, wishing that I had just said no and gotten over with it. Now I have to live with the consequence of my yes.

Why Learning to Say No is Important

I can confidently say that there is a freeing power in saying no.

I learned that saying yes adds extra stress to a cup that is already filled with unresolved issues. It can be going a few extra hours at work, taking care of a child whose parents are having a romantic dinner, or lending a friend some money. All these are things that though you can happily help out, can still bring unnecessary inconveniences.

To understand why it is important to learn to say no, let’s first explore the reasons why you are always saying yes. There are a number of them and include the following

Ø People pleaser

Ø Afraid of hurting someone’s feeling

Ø Looking to appear dependable

Ø You feel guilty when you say no.

Ø Want to appear caring

The moment you start to say no, you have declared that your time is more valuable. That your interests are worthy to be pursued than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, this is not being selfish but it is choosing to focus on what matters to you most.

In this post, I will be sharing ways how you can say no without feeling the need to explain yourself.

1. Understand what you want and make it your priority.

Knowing your priorities and having a clear set of goals gives you clarity whenever you have to decide between a yes or a no. Your goals will give you the strength to assert whether saying yes will be a form of distraction. Thereafter, you have the opportunity to respond intelligently without any vague excuses.

2. Listen first before responding

Just like it is difficult to say no, for some people it is also difficult to ask for help. So, have the courtesy and the decency to listen. If even you already know the answer is a no. You may not be in a position to help, but you may know someone who can.

3. Say no and stop talking

The moment you say no, you must stop talking. Bite your tongue when you feel like you want to explain yourself. Explaining yourself or offering excuses on why you cannot respond in kind weakens your stance and can even make you reconsider.

4. Be swift, Polite, and firm about it

The moment you know your answer is going to be no, don’t beat around the bush about it. Be swift, firm, and polite with your response. This gives the person the opportunity to go and seek help from somewhere else.

Aside from these, we as individuals need to understand that no is a complete answer. It doesn’t matter whether it is the answer we were hoping for or not. You may not know, but sometimes saying no is an opportunity to say yes to better things.

So, stop putting other people’s needs above yours. And don’t even worry about hurting their feelings.

Stay woke, and keep your priorities in check.