Do you feel guilty when you say no?  You shouldn’t.  Being kind and courteous doesn’t mean that you have to do everyone’s bidding.  Even though etiquette dictates that you demonstrate consideration for others, it doesn’t mean that you completely ignore your own personal needs.  In fact, when faced with a request from someone else, you should always consider your priorities and convictions first.  If you are being kind and considerate to yourself, then you will eliminate feelings of guilt associated with the answer “no.”  

How to say “no”nicely.

1.  Try not to answer “no” immediately.  If you answer so quickly that you appear not to give any thought to the person’s request, then you will inevitably hurt the feelings of the person asking.  Pause a moment and truly consider the request.  Use this time to consider your priorities and personal obligations before answering.  If you take this approach, then you will not feel guilty for saying “no.”

2.  Do not wait too long to provide an answer.  You should never delay your response in order to put off saying “no.”  After all, you cannot do everything.  If you must delay your response, then let the other person know when they can expect an answer. (24 hours should be the gold standard.)

3.  Keep your answer short and sweet.  Please do not lie. People easily get themselves in trouble when they try to make up an excuse.  If you can give a real reason behind the “no” without hurting someone’s feelings, then you may do so.  However, a simple “No, Thank You” is all that is required.  If you feel obligated to say more, then you may consider saying “I’m so sorry.” or  “You are so kind to ask.” as a follow-up statement.

4.  If you truly want to say “yes” but cannot, then offer an alternative, if applicable.  (For example, “I can help you move until noon but after that I must leave to attend my sister’s book club.”  Again, you could just say “no.”  People respect you more for letting your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”  

5.  If you still struggle with saying “no”, then use this easy formula:

The “No” Formula

1.  Compliment the person who is making the request, if at all possible. Also, be genuine.

2.  Answer “Yes.” or “No.”

3.  Give the person who is doing the asking encouragement.

4.  Say “Thank You.”

5.  Change the subject or excuse yourself.

6. Keep it light.  People know that they have a 50/50 chance of hearing the word “no” in response to their request.  It should not be the end of the world for either party.

 If people continue to pressure you or try to persuade you to change your answer, then that is considered bully behavior.  Do not acknowledge or participate in it.  Again, keep it short.  Just say “no.”