Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Seven Ways to Say “No” and Keep Good Relations

Set your boundaries without feeling guilty.

freepikdotcom designed by nensuria
Source: freepikdotcom designed by nensuria

Do you have trouble saying “No”? Many women and men are traditionally taught to avoid saying “no,” especially when facing authority figures. Some of us are told from a young age that we’re not supposed to say “no” to our parents, relatives, teachers, bosses, and others. There may be cultural, gender, social, religious, or institutional pressure to conform and please. Often there’s a fear of rejection, a desire to avoid confrontation or guilt over hurting others’ feelings.

Of course, it’s important to say “no” when necessary, in order to protect our boundaries and maintain one’s own priorities. Below are seven ways to say “no” effectively, with references to my books (click on titles): "How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People" and "Are You Too Nice? How to Gain Appreciation and Respect".

For example, if your friend asks to borrow your car, and you’re uncomfortable with the idea, you can either be direct and say “no,” or you can use any of the following, assertive yet diplomatic expressions to draw the line:

"I prefer to be the only one driving my car.“

I prefer not to lend out my car.”

It doesn't work for me to lend out my car.”

It's important to me that I keep my car for my own use.”

Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to lend you my car.”

I'm uncomfortable with letting others drive my car.“

I made a promise to myself that I’m not going to let other people drive my car.”

All of the examples above are “I” or “it” statements, which are more difficult for the listener to dispute. If someone is persistent in wanting you to do what he or she wants, keep repeating “no” using any combination of the “I” and “it” statements above. Hold your ground until the person realizes you mean what you say.

In addition, you can utilize the “sandwich” communication method to gently turn down a person. This method begins with a positive statement, states “no” diplomatically in the middle, and concludes with another positive statement. For example: “I understand you need a car this weekend. Unfortunately, I’m really not comfortable lending my car. Hope you can find another arrangement.”

Source: niprestondotcom

For more tips on how to be assertive, see my books (click on titles):

"How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People"

"Are You Too Nice? How to Gain Appreciation and Respect"

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. is available as a presenter, workshop facilitator, and private coach. For more information, write to, or visit

© 2012 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.