How to Say No Without Hurting Someone’s Feelings

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In today’s hectic society, it’s important to know your limits. Between work, education, friends, family, and partners, you may feel that you are being pulled in all directions.

If you say yes to everything everyone asks of you, you may start to feel overwhelmed, overworked, and overtired. This is why learning how to say no is necessary to your mental and physical health. 

Explore the following 18 ways to say no politely.

These helpful phrases can help you set healthy boundaries for yourself, from taking on too many commitments or doing things you don’t want to do just to please others.

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1. “I’d Love to, but I’ve made other commitments”

If you are asked to do something but have already made plans, it is perfectly acceptable to say something along the lines of “I’d love to go, but I’ve made other commitments”.

This phrase lets the other person know that you would really like to participate in what they are asking, but you are locked into other plans. It also shows that you keep your commitments, which is a positive trait to have.

2. “I’m honored, but I can’t”

This phrase is an excellent option to say when you are asked to do something important, such as accompany a friend to an important event, but you are too busy or don’t feel you can take it on emotionally.

Letting them know that you feel honored shows that you care, but you are also taking care of yourself by letting them know that right now is not a good time. 

3. “I don’t want you to wait on me”

Saying something like “thanks, but I don’t want you to have to wait on me” is a great way to say no by putting the blame on yourself.

It shows you are conscientious and courteous. If they push the issue you may have to say no more forcefully, but most people will recognize your no and accept it gracefully.

4. “I can’t, I’m too overwhelmed right now”

This polite no is direct and honest. It works in any situation because overwhelm can affect your ability to join in on even the smallest outing or project.

By telling others you are too overwhelmed, you are able to say no while being completely genuine. Once said, you can work on getting things done so you don’t feel as overwhelmed. 

5. “Thanks for the offer, but it’s not a good idea right now”

This phrase works for a number of situations, especially those that involve activities that you may be trying to stay away from.

Perhaps you are trying to eat healthier and your friend asks you to go to a dessert bar. By saying the above, you are putting the “no” on your own hesitations, which allows you to get out of the situation without offending anyone. 

6. “Let’s touch base another time”

If you aren’t sure about something but don’t want to give a definitive no, telling the other person that you’d like to touch base about it at another time is a good option.

This saying works well in professional settings, but it’s also perfect for friends and family. It allows you to say no for now but opens the conversation up for another point in time. 

7. “Thanks, but that’s not really my thing”

Sometimes you don’t have a reason to say no other than it’s just not something you enjoy.

This can apply when someone asks you to participate in something you are uncomfortable with or don’t want to learn. However, if you like the person, you can try adding in an alternative suggestion at the end for a different opportunity.

8. “I appreciate it, but I’m not sure it works for me now”

It’s always good to lead with a positive attitude, which is why starting your no with affirmative appreciation is an excellent idea.

Letting the other person know you appreciate that you were asked helps soften the no. By saying you don’t think the idea works for you right now, you are telling them it’s not something you can fit in at the moment. 

9. “I’m going to go in a different direction on this one”

It is helpful to have go-to no phrases for your professional life. The above is perfect for a professional work situation, whether you are in a management position or working on a group project.

Telling someone you are going in a different direction lets them know that you’ve declined their offer, ideas, or service while remaining professional and non-personal. You may, however, want to include a few reasons why the person is not left wondering what didn’t work. 

10. “That sounds fun but I have too much to do today”

If you are totally swamped with tasks to do (or if you just want some free time), you can always tell the person who asked that their offer sounds fun but you can’t fit it in your day.

If you are interested in the activity, try asking if another day would work for them. It’s good to practice saying no in this way, especially if you want to stop people-pleasing and focus more on your own needs. 

11. “No thanks”

Depending on the situation, a direct and simple “no thanks” is a perfectly polite way to say no.

It is a bit more abrupt than other phrases and doesn’t offer a reason for your, no, but it’s good to know that you don’t always need to explain why you can’t or don’t want something. Remember, saying no is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety,

12. “I can’t, but (someone) might like to instead”

If someone such as a friend, family member, or co-worker asks you to do something and you’d rather not, try letting them down with an alternative suggestion.

If you know someone else who’d like to do the job, take the trip, or accompany them, go ahead and suggest that person to the one who’s asking you when you say no. 

13. “I’m sorry, my doctor told me not to eat that anymore”

This phrase is easily changed to suit your needs. It’s an excellent way to place the “blame” on someone else, ideally a professional whose advice is respect.

You can sub out doctor for any other relevant professional such a nutritionist or counselor, as well as sub out the activity that you are no longer supposed to take part in. 

14. “I’m not comfortable with that, sorry”

If you choose to tell someone no, this is an ideal choice of words. By telling the person that you are not comfortable with the activity or event, you are letting them know your boundaries.

The best part of using this phrase to tell someone no is that you don’t need to explain any further -being uncomfortable is reason enough.

15. “Probably not, but I’ll let you know if I change my mind”

This is a good phrase to use when you don’t want to reject someone with a harsh no, but also want to remain in complete control of the follow-up.

It also works if you feel unsure at the moment but may change your mind later. By telling them that you’ll let them know if you change your mind, you’ve let them know that you’ll be the one who makes the move if you decide to move forward. 

16. “No, sorry, I don’t do that”

If you are being asked to do something by someone who is pushing your boundaries, a firm “no, sorry, I don’t do that” is appropriate.

This can pertain to habits that you’ve given up such as drinking or smoking.

It can also apply if someone is pressuring you to break the rules in some way. You can set your firm boundary but give them an unequivocally no. 

17. “I’m going to opt-out on this one, but thank you”

With this phrase, you hit all the important points of politely declining. You take ownership of your decision so the other party doesn’t take it personally.

You also refrain from any type of judgment by simply stating that you are opting out.

Finally, you are thanking them for the offer. All of these combine to make for an ideal way to say no politely.

18. “I’m good, thanks”

Sometimes the fewer words the better. In most situations, a simple “I’m good, thanks” works as an efficient way to say no.

“I’m good” conveys that you are happy with what you’ve got or where you are at the moment and the “thanks” acknowledges that someone thought of you enough to ask. 

Saying No Is Okay

No matter the situation, saying no is okay. Most of the time it’s preferable to say no as politely as possible, so having a list of baseline phrases can come in handy.

Saying no when you are tired, already have commitments, or just don’t feel like doing something is vital to your wellbeing.

When you say no politely, you let the other person down in a respectful way, while also practicing self-care. 

Additional Resources

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About the author

Jeana Marie
Jeana Marie is a freelance content writer who specializes in mental health, personal development, and holistic living. She is passionate about sharing holistic lifestyle tips that help others live in balance and harmony. Jeana is an herbal tea and coffee enthusiast and enjoys hiking with her daughters in her free time. Find more of her writing at

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