How to Say No and Still Be the Nice Guy

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Written by Timo Kiander

Many times in our daily lives, we face situations, where we should say “no” to a request. However, we find it to be a very difficult thing to do.

We are afraid to think what others are saying if we decline. We might also think that saying “no” will hurt our relationship with that other person – permanently.

In most of the cases, those fears are unnecessary. They are just our imagination and in reality, nothing scary will happen, if we turn a request down.

Why you should decline from a request

There are many reasons why you should decline to do something, if you are being asked to.

Increased productivity
Saying “no” will increase your productivity, because you are not accepting any new work that would possibly distract you. Also, you are able to focus to your current tasks better, which ensures that they get done.

Keep the deadlines
You are much more likely to keep your deadlines if you say “no”.

For example, if you are about to deliver some work to a client, you want to keep the agreed deadlines. Saying “yes” to an external request might potentially increase your workload so much, that you don’t have enough capability of handling all the work in time.

You are in control of your life
If you have difficulties of saying “no”, then in the worst case others may take advantage of your kindness.

However, if you decide to say “no”, you are in control your life – not others. You decide what task to accept, what meetings to attend or what activities to participate on your free-time.

You are true to your core values
We all have core values that we live our life by. For example, honesty is one of those values that is very important for me. That’s why I would find difficult to commit to an activity, which requires me to lie.

Your inner voice will most likely advice you to say “no”, whenever your values are going to be violated.

Less stress
Closely related to productivity, saying “no” is also one way of decreasing your stress levels. When you are not overloaded with work and tight schedules, you have much less stress to handle.

That in turn affects positively to your well-being and happiness.

The right way to decline

Now that you learned about the benefits of saying “no”, you should also understand the different ways of saying “no” the right way.

These are the ways I have used myself. Although I’m not saying that declining becomes effortless by applying these tips, it still becomes easier.

1. Evaluate the situation
When someone comes to you and asks you to do something, you have to evaluate the situation first.

Obviously, if the situation is critical and the other person is depending on your help (for example in a traffic accident), then it is natural to answer “yes”.

However, in normal, everyday situations the request is most likely much less severe (your colleague asks you to come for a drink after work), so you have both the options “yes” and “no” at your disposal.

Also, you most likely have more time to come up with a justification why you are going to say “no”.

2. Be discreet, but firm
I tend to start my “no” answer in the form of “Unfortunately I’m unable to …” and then follow with the justification, why I’m not able to fulfill the request.

The main point here is to say “no” in a polite, but firm manner. Some people are very rude in their replies when they decline and that kind of behavior leaves me cold every time.

Although in those cases the message (denial) comes very clear, I still prefer the softer and more polite way of saying things.

3. Say your opinion clearly enough
Truly mean what you say. Your answer should be a definite “no”, not a “maybe”. Don’t leave other people wondering what you mean by your answer.

Say your answer in a clear and loud enough manner, so that the other person understands your point at once.

4. Be honest
When you say “no”, be honest with your reasonings. Don’t make up reasons why you are not willing to fulfill the request. When you are caught lying, it is embarrassing to yourself.

Also, if the other person happens to be your colleague or friend that you lied to, it will have negative consequences to your relationships.

5. Be selfish
This last point is perhaps the most important one when it comes to saying “no”. The thing is that

if the other person has a right to present you a request, you have the equal right to say “no” as an answer.

Also, you should also reflect your own situation to that request before you answer; Are you willing to fully commit to it, does it fit to your schedules and are you capable of handling the request in the first place.


I try to keep these tips and techniques as my guidelines when I evaluate a request – and when I decide to say “no”.

It is understandable, that saying “no” is not the easiest thing to do at times. But at the same time, if you are polite and honest, it is much easier this way.

However, this doesn’t mean that I’m saying “no” all the time. In fact, sometimes you have to say “yes” as an answer. This depends of course from the situation you are in.

By carefully evaluating the situation first before answering, is the right way to move on in that that scenario.

Some Amazing Comments


About the author

Timo Kiander

Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, helps entrepreneurs improve their online business productivity. With 18 co-authors (Pat Flynn, Corbett Barr and Steven Aitchison to name a few), he wrote a book about how to build an online business and get stuff done - even when working from 9-5 (available as a free download or through Amazon).


  • Saying “No” doesn’t mean you’re taking it on the other side or negatively. You just have to be Honest enough to know what’s good, what’s right for you. Sincere No plus Reasonable Reasons will help you make them understand your thoughts.

    • Lyka,

      I also feel that honesty plays a big part when saying “no”.

      Lying about your reasons is really short sighted and can damage the relationship between you and the other person for good.


  • I recently had someone say “no” to me after she changed her mind about taking a volunteer position. The “no” was not a problem, in fact I was glad she said “no”. The problem was what came after the word “no”. Saying “no” does not mean you have to tear the other person down to justify your saying “no”. The other person declined the position and then proceeded to tell me how little she thought of me, how much more busy she was than me, and that her time was so much more valuable than mine. In that moment a friendship was destroyed.

    Say “no”, mean it, but you don’t have to justify it.

  • It’s very hard to say ‘no’ because it seems like a negative word and it’s like not good to turn down other people’s offer when they are actually expecting a ‘yes’ from us. Sometimes the feeling of guiltiness and fear of hurting other people’s feeling just overtake our real intention – to decline. But you’re right, we’re suppose to take control of our life and choose what works good for us. So thanks Timo, I enjoyed your useful tips :)

    • Noel,

      Great to hear that you liked this article!

      I understand that feeling of yours – I have felt it many times too! However, at some point we just have to be brave and say no.


  • Hi Timo,

    A very intelligent post, one which I could do with reading more than once!

    Saying “no” is just as important as saying “yes” – we must exercise our ability and our right to say both of these words, as living too much in one field means we’re out of balance. Balance is key to a healthy life, and so balancing the yes and the no means that we live healthily.

    Thanks for sharing Timo!

    • Stuart,

      I’m happy to hear you liked my article :)

      Yes, it’s all about balance. I think that this is yet another great insight that I have learned through the comments – thank you for that :)


  • All good ways to help us say no when we need to, I don’t think saying no needs to be seen as being selfish though becasue if we say ‘yes’ when we should say no, theother person migt end up wishing we hadn’t. eg, if you aren’t well enough to do something, but you say yes, you’re likely to do it badly, or miserably etc. Sometimes it’s best for both the asker and the replier that the replier says no. I hope that makes sense.

  • I have been known to get myself in a pinch on this one. I genuinely want to help others. And while I have no problem saying no when I know I can’t do something, my only problem is I sometimes overbook myself, forgetting about a previously scheduled appointment. So for me, being more self-aware, perhaps putting my calendar items on my phone so I can avoid my own time management tangles is the solution.

    • Ken,

      I have to admit that at times this has been my problem too. I guess it happened earlier much more.

      Putting those earlier agreed commitments visible somewhere is a great way to remember the stuff you have promised to do (which could then help you to say “no” too).


  • Hi! So funny I find myself here after just posting a blog about saying YES to my life!

    The way I look at it, technically we say YES to ourselves by turning down events, invitations, or opportunities that do not fit in our busy schedules.

    I said YES before for all the wrong reasons. I was overworked, over committed, and broken. When I recognized a few years later that by limiting what I say YES to, I was able to better be present, fully engaged, and committed to what I ‘signed up’ for!

    So, by saying NO, we really say YES to all the important stuff.
    Wonderful tips here, thank you so much for writing.
    In Harmony,
    Jen ♫

  • An additional way as well is to say ‘no’ but offer an alternative or a suggestion to the person. It shows that you still care even though you are not available to directly help. Sometimes your alternative or suggestion will be a better solution for that person which will be a win-win for all.

  • Hi Timo,
    Certainly knowing when to say “No” is a great positive as is knowing when to “yes”… can be a balancing act, it comes down to the timing. Thank you &
    be good to yourself

    • David,

      Sure, you need careful consideration when to choose which answer.

      I think that inside your heart you will know the right one – although it might be sometimes difficult to say it out loud.


  • I’ve learned that I can be a “person of yes” and still say no. Right now, after a very busy fall, I’m saying no (nicely) to all requests that involve any commitment or responsibility, except social fun, until after the new year.

  • For people who are committed to helping others, saying no can be a real challenge. For some, saying no is synonymous with refusing someone to share in your time and expertise. This is also one of the reasons that the helping profession, for example, has one of the highest burnout rates. You have put out the argument for saying no in a very convincing manner. The techniques you have compiled allso come across as very effective. Thanks for the light.

  • Sir, you are very Correct,this article deals with the common challenge i and every other person face day to day home and at work.great article thanks for sharing this beautiful secret. God bless you

  • So true Timo. I thought that I always had to say “yes” to everyone’s request but now I know that I always have the choice to do so.

    For many saying No is extremely difficult to do but with a litle practice it gets much easier. And like you said, it is a form of self control.

    • Justin,

      I agree… it is difficult. I have been in that situation many times.

      When you say “no” couple of times, you will soon realize that life will go on as usual :)


  • Hi Timo

    Welcome to CYT, it’s a great pleasure to have you write an article for us.

    I think your article is a great one and very important if we want to learn more about ourselves. Saying ‘No’ gives us confidence within ourselves as well as the 5 points you have listed here.

    It takes guts to say No, but with practice it becomes easier and more natural. I think the first few tiems we do this, we come across as apologetic, and a bit wimpy :) which means the No can be turned into a Yes very easily. However the more we practice this the better we get at it, and a No will mean No!

    thanks for a great article Timo, hopefully we’ll see you back here again soon.

    • Steven,

      Thank you :)

      Also, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to guest post on your blog!

      And yes … it’s all about practice – even when saying no :)


  • This was a great, reassuring post. Saying “no” doesn’t make you a bad person. One thing I like to do is ensure the requester knows that “no” now doesn’t mean “no” always. I smile and tell them to “Never stop asking me for help. You might get yes the next time.” It goes a long way for keeping relationships intact. Just make sure you keep your word and help when you can.

    • Jason,

      Thank you!

      I think that it is important to be friendly when saying no (as you mentioned).

      Too many times people are very blunt when they refuse to do something.


    • Yea, saying no is imperative at times. The secret of life is to know thyself.

      Stand for something or you will fall for anything..

      Ultimately people who do not say no as they are people pleasers can not be trusted as you never know what they will succumb to next..

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