How to Say “No” Without Being Rude

If you too easily say “yes” to others, and end up feeling overcommitted and stressed, then you are not alone. Saying yes to everything is one of the fastest way to burn out. Expressing your boundaries to others is an important interpersonal skill; however, it can be challenging to know how to do it without being rude.

Some people give in to requests to avoid disappointing or upsetting others. For other people, the barrier may come from a fear of conflict or confrontation. Another unhelpful belief is that other people’s needs are more important than one’s own needs. Saying “no” can be challenging, but it is entirely possible to decline and go about it in a non-hurtful and non-hostile way.


Consider that being unclear is unkind. Gossiping about others behind their back, feeding people half-truths, and resenting others without giving them a chance to do better by you… These toxic behaviours have in common that they are unkind. Whereas being clear is kind. It gives other people clarity and certainty about where you stand.


The truth is, you can say “no” in so many different ways. The less rude and more graceful you are about it, the more likely you’ll have your boundary understood and respected. That’s because when you are heard the way you intend to be heard, others will be more likely to want to take you seriously and listen.

Here are some tips for how to say “no” without being rude:

TIP #1: Use “I-Statements”

Why? Because “you statements” can sound like a personal attack.

EXAMPLE: “You’re asking me too much of my time.”

IMPROVED: “I have a lot on my plate lately, so I’m afraid I don’t have the time to help you out.”


TIP #2: When Needed, Switch Out your “No” for “Later”

Why? Because otherwise you may say yes under pressure due to being mentally unprepared to say no.

“I need to think about that; I’ll get back to you about it tomorrow.”


TIP #3: Consider Using “And” Instead of “But”

Why? Because using “but” can undo anything important you say before it, thereby potentially sounding insincere.

EXAMPLE : “I had a great time, but I prefer to just be friends .”

IMPROVED: “I had a great time, and I prefer to just be friends.”


TIP #4: If Possible, Offer an Alternative

Why? Because otherwise you may come across as closed off when that may not be true for you.

EXAMPLE: “Texting about this is too hard. I’m done.”

IMPROVED: “I prefer that we talk about this in person as I find it hard to properly express myself via text.”


TIP #5: Keep it Brief

Why? Because otherwise you can become derailed from what you’re trying to say.

EXAMPLE: “I can’t go to the event because (reason after reason, over-explaining)…”

IMPROVED: “I’ve overcommitted, so I’m afraid I can’t go to the event.”


BONUS TIP: Reach Out to a Psychologist to Build Assertiveness Skills

Psychologists can help teach assertiveness skills like saying “no”, and help people to understand why doing it can be hard work. Psychologists can create a tailored treatment plan, depending on the person, their background, and the situations they have difficulty with. This includes at work, which can bring unique challenges.

Andrew Pelly

Andrew has been a Psychologist for over 4 years, with 15+ years’ experience in professional counselling roles. He has provided psychological support to people in many areas of WA including the Perth Metro, the Pilbara region, and in the Kimberleys. His main interest areas are addictions and LGBTQIA+ challenges.

You can find out more about Andrew here or book an appointment with him at our Subiaco clinic by clicking here.

Andrew Pelly is a registered psychologist