How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty In 3 Super Simple Steps


“People think focus means saying “yes” to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying “no” to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
~ Steve Jobs

You have limited resources. You have limited time, focus, willpower and energy and you cannot afford to spend any of them on tasks (or people) that are not going to bring you closer to your goals.

That is why one of the most productive skills you can ever develop is learning how to say “no”. No to opportunities, tasks and people that don’t move the needle in your favor.

But saying “no” comes with strings attached.

It oftentimes makes you feel guilty. The “what if” mentality also can kick in. What if you offend the other person, what if you miss out on a great opportunity?

Let’s remove all these mental obstacles.

Here’s how to say “no” without feeling guilty and in a way that will make other people actually respect you (and your time more):

Step 1: Honesty Is The Best Policy

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

75% of communication is non-verbal. People read body language in 1/12th of a second and it happens completely subconsciously. If you want to say “no”, but you end up saying “yes” or “maybe”, your body will tell the whole story and noone wins.

Your body is bad at masking the truth, so you are always better off being honest and saying “no” instead of trying to beat around the bush.

Step 2: Don’t Over-Explain

Giving some details of why you are saying “no” is good, but don’t over do it.

“This is exactly the day when my spouse is coming back from vacation with the kids and I need to go pick them up because they bought this big present for me and we need two cars for all the luggage…” — don’t be that person. Even if it is a true story, you might come across as dishonest because it sounds like you are making it all up.

Plus, you open yourself to counter-arguments of how you can work around this issue.

Some details are good, too much details is bad.

Step 3: Give A Reason Why

Research tells us that people are 34% more likely to let you cut in front of the photocopier line if you give a reason why, even if it something is silly as “because I am in a hurry”.

“Because” is a magical word, use it.

Giving a reason, any reason, why you are saying “no” makes it 34% more likely to be accepted by the other person.

Putting It All Together

Honest, brief and giving a reason why — the magical formula to saying “no”. Here’s an example:

“I cannot commit to this because I have other priorities at the moment”

Let’s break it down. “I cannot commit (a firm no), because (offering a reason why), I have other priorities at the moment (a reason which is short and vague enough not to invite counter-arguments and specific enough not to sound dishonest).

Your Turn

There you have it, a 3-step formula to saying “no” when you don’t want to accept an opportunity or a task that won’t bring you closer to your goals. Saying “no” is a habit like any other. It might be hard at first, but it gets easier with every single attempt.

Practice it. Master it. Your productivity and success will be grateful.

And always remember:

Read the full story and get more productivity training here.


Kosio Angelov is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of the “Lean Email Simple System” and a master trainer in the art of “doing the right things, the right way”.

Follow him on Medium, subscribe to his “Successful By Design” productivity show on YouTube and learn how to break the busyness bubble, achieve exponential productivity and live life by design, not by default.

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