How to Say No: A guide for people pleasers.

Two letters, and yet so many of us struggle to say it.


If you are a people pleaser, then the reasons why you struggle to say no might vary from wanting to be polite and agreeable to feeling guilt when you turn someone down. But learning how to say “NO” is an invaluable skill to have, it helps you to set firm boundaries, have more free time, and even encourages more respect from your peers. 


Let’s investigate:

    • Am I really a people pleaser?
    • Why saying “no” can be a struggle.
    • What happens if you only say yes.
    • When you should say no.
    • Some non-offensive ways to help you say no.
    • And why no is a full sentence.


“Am I really a people pleaser?”


People pleasers are generally very well-liked by their peers, they are always willing to step up and help, and are thoughtful to those around them.

But on the other side of the coin, they fear disappointing others, place their own needs on the back burner, and can often become emotionally drained.


Six signs you are a people pleaser:

    1. You apologise even when you aren’t to blame
    2. You avoid conflict
    3. You need others to like you
    4. You always agree (even when you don’t really agree)
    5. You feel responsible for how others feel
    6. You find it hard to say no.


Sound familiar? There are a lot of things you can do to stop being a people pleaser. A big one is learning to say “no”.


Why do so many of us struggle to say no?


There are many different reasons why, but interestingly, a lot of them are related to appeasing someone else. Do you relate to any of the reasons below?

    • You don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
    • You might feel guilty saying no.
    • You want to show you are committed.
    • You don’t want to seem like you aren’t capable of something.
    • You might be trying to prove yourself in a new role.
    • Maybe it feels impolite.


You might read the list above and think:

“I relate to some, but if I don’t say yes then my friends and colleagues might think less of me! I want people to think I am a kind and helpful person.”  


There’s nothing wrong with being kind to others, in fact it is a wonderful trait to have. But if you find you are constantly trying to avoid upsetting others, and putting a lot of pressure on yourself to keep everyone happy - then you may be left feeling drained.


What happens if you say “yes” all the time?


Sometimes it can feel easier to say yes, to try and keep everyone happy. But if you are constantly agreeing to take on more workload, more responsibility, and saying yes to things you don’t really want to do. Then it can start to negatively affect you.


After a while, always saying yes can cause:

  • Stress and overwhelm:

Constantly saying yes to new projects or tasks for others, can make it hard to find the time and energy for your original work. Leaving you stressed, lacking hours in the day, and overwhelmed with things to do.

  • Burnout:

If all your free time is filled supporting others, with no time for your own self-care and rest. You’ll be exhausted, and it can build up to a mental and physical burnout.

  • Feelings of frustration and resentment

If you aren’t receiving any recognition or compensation for the extra work you are doing, you may start to resent the people around you. Without proper communication and boundaries, what may start as helping a friend, might end up driving a wedge between you.


So for the sake of our mental health, it’s important we are comfortable with saying no, and prioritising our own needs.


When should you say no:

  • At work, if you’re already at capacity


If you are on a busy deadline at work, it isn’t the time to be taking on additional projects.

But it can be tricky to say no in the workplace, especially if you are required to complete tasks given to you by a manager.

Try this: If you are already overloaded, it is worth sitting down with your manager and having a conversation about what they would like you to prioritise first. That way, it takes some of the responsibility off your shoulders if a due date for a lower priority project needs to be pushed back.


  • When something crosses your personal boundaries


Communication is key in this situation, whether in a relationship or between friends, it can be tempting to just say yes “this one time”. But the more you shift your boundaries to accommodate others, the more they will start to blur, and the more people will feel comfortable asking you to cross them.

Staying firm, communicating where your boundaries are, and where you draw the line, helps people to respect you more.


  • If you feel pressured or if it’s just to please someone else.


You should never feel pressured to say yes, especially when you are on the fence, or in personal situations. Always try to take a step back and make an informed decision about whether you want to do something. And if you’ve got a big decision to make, you have time to call on your network, ask friends, family and mentors to help you make the best decision.

If it’s happening at work, remember that while it’s important to appease your managers and leaders, it shouldn’t be your only motivator for working hard at your job.

You can’t please everyone, but if you agree to things at your own expense, it can leave you frustrated and regretful.


Saying no when it doesn’t suit us, not only gives us more capacity to say yes to projects and experiences that we enjoy. But it also forces people to start respecting our boundaries, and prevents those negative feelings of frustration, overwhelm, and resentment.


Ten non-offensive ways to say no:

If you’re finding it tough to say no, here are a few ways you can say it:


    1. “I would love to be there and to support you, but I am spending time with family this weekend.”
    2. “I don't have the capacity for that right now.”
    3. “Thank you so much for asking, but I have committed to something else on that date.”
    4. “I’m sorry, this one doesn’t align with my role.”
    5. “It sounds wonderful, but I’ll have to miss this one.”
    6. “Maybe next time, I have another commitment.”
    7. “I wish I were able to, but unfortunately I can’t fit this in.”
    8. “I would love to help with this, but I am on a deadline for X project. Shall we sit down and chat about what you would like me to prioritise?”
    9. "I really appreciate you thinking of me, but unfortunately I can’t help with that tonight.”
    10. “No thank you.”


        It's is a full sentence


        While it is good to have a list of alternative ways to say no in your toolbox, ready to whip out when you need them. It’s also important to remember that:

        No is a full sentence.

        You do not owe anyone an explanation if you don’t want to give one BraveFace. Remember to always prioritise yourself, and your own mental health.


        Want a confidence boost?

        Have you tried our CoolHead stress relief spray? Our herbal day spray formulated with Passionflower and Mānuka honey to calm the mind plus Gotu kola to support mental focus.

        CoolHead helps you say that “no” with confidence and calm.



        Our mission at BraveFace is to empower people who want to be the best they can, with the tools they need to overcome unwanted feelings of stress and worry. We want to do this both through the products we create, and the information we share.
        So if there are any topics you would like us to cover, send us a DM on Instagram and let us know.