How to Get Someone to Say No

It’s hard to see someone you love get taken advantage of by others. If you have a friend or family member who just can’t say no, watching them get overwhelmed and stressed on the daily can be tough. We’ve compiled a few ways you can help someone in your life stand up for themselves and say no to things they’re too busy for or just don’t want to do.


Method 1 of 9: Ask them how busy their schedule is.

How to Get Someone to Say No

If they say it out loud, they might understand why they should say no. People often feel guilted into saying yes to everything, even when they just don’t have time for it. Sit them down and ask them to tell you their plans for the upcoming week—if they don’t have any days off or they haven’t set aside some time for themselves, let them know that they’re probably overbooked.

  • This is a good exercise to see just how much they have on their plate. If their schedule isn’t completely full yet, remind them that they need time to rest and relax.
  • Your friend can also work on telling others just how busy they are. That way, people might be less likely to add to their overloaded schedule.

Method 2 of 9: Remind them that their time is valuable.

How to Get Someone to Say No

It’s good to hear this from someone other than yourself. While we often recognize that other people are busy and need to take a break, it’s sometimes hard to remember that for yourself. If you’re talking to a friend or family member, let them know that their own time has value, too. This will also help them raise their own self-esteem so they can have the confidence to say no.

  • You might say something like, “You wouldn’t accept a job that didn’t pay you any money. Your time has value! You don’t have to spend time on things you don’t want to.”

Method 3 of 9: Explain the benefits of saying no.

How to Get Someone to Say No

People who don’t say no often become angry and resentful. They start to resent the people in their lives who keep asking them to do things because they aren’t sure how to say no. Tell your friend that once they start standing up for themselves, they’ll feel much happier and way less stressed out. They’ll probably also have better relationships with the people around them because they won’t feel overburdened.

  • You could say something like, “You know how you get a little angry every time someone asks for a favor? What if you didn’t have to feel like that anymore? If you just said no, you could still be friends with everyone, and you’d be way less stressed out by them.”

Method 4 of 9: Ask them what advice they’d give to a friend.

Do a role reversal so they can look at things objectively. Ask your friend what they might tell you if you came to them with a similar problem. Chances are, they’d probably tell you to stick up for yourself and be assertive to lower your stress levels. Once they say that out loud, they’ll be much more likely to take their own advice.

  • Say something like, “What if it were me? Would you tell me to back down and just do it, or would you tell me to stand up for myself?”

Method 5 of 9: Come up with a few phrases they could use.

Preparing ahead of time can make it easier when the real deal happens. Instead of literally just saying the word “no,” help your friend come up with a few ways they can decline without offending anyone. This is especially helpful for people pleasers who feel like they’re disappointing someone when they say no. Try phrases like:

  • “Unfortunately, I’ll have to pass on that.”
  • “I’m sorry, but I’m not able to do that.”
  • “Thanks, but that’s not going to work for me.”
  • “Sadly, I can’t.”

Method 6 of 9: Have them soften the blow with gratitude.

Thanking someone for an opportunity is a great way to avoid offense. People who can’t say no are often worried about offending someone, so they might feel guilty about rejecting an offer. They can use a “thank you” at the beginning of their phrase to soften it and maintain a positive relationship. Use phrases like:

  • “I really appreciate you thinking of me, but I’m just too busy right now.”
  • “Thanks so much for the opportunity, but I’ll have to pass.”
  • “You coming to me really means a lot, but I just can’t fit that into my schedule.”

Method 7 of 9: Help them stand firm if they’re pushed.

How to Get Someone to Say No

Some people just won’t take no for an answer. If your friend already has a hard time saying no, they’re probably going to have a hard time standing up for themselves if they’re pushed. Remind your friend that they can keep saying no, even if they’re asked again and again. They can also make light of the situation by saying something like:

  • “I know you don’t give up easily, but neither do I. I’m still going to have to say no.”
  • “Wow, you’re very passionate about this! I’m also very passionate about not overbooking myself.”

Method 8 of 9: Have them practice saying no with you.

How to Get Someone to Say No

It’s easier to say no in a safe space. This might sound silly, but try approaching your friend with a request or a favor. Then, have them practice telling you no. Over time, they’ll get better and better about saying no to others.

  • Try to push them a little bit, too. The people in their life might not take their first no as an answer, so you shouldn’t either.

Method 9 of 9: Model good behavior by saying no in your own life.

How to Get Someone to Say No

Try not to overbook yourself, and be confident when you say no. If you can show your friend that it’s not impossible to tell other people no, they’ll be much more likely to take your advice to heart. Keep your schedule manageable, don’t be a people pleaser, and say no to things you just don’t have time for.

  • If you have any examples of saying no that you could tell your friend, that might help.
  • For instance, you could say, “Just last month my daughter’s teacher asked me to direct the school play. I knew I couldn’t balance my full-time job and an after-school activity, so I declined. They gave the position to someone else, and the play is doing great!”
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