How To Say No Without Backing Down

No can be so difficult to say, especially when someone is pleading with you, but I will give you some great tips on how to say no without backing down.

If you want to live a life of your own making and not someone else's then there will be times when you just have to say no to other people's requests - you can't do everything right?

We’ve all been there.  Someone has asked you to do something, and you’re up to your ears in other stuff going on, so you say no.  You don’t have the

  • Time
  • Energy
  • Inclination

You’d think no means no, wouldn’t you?  You’ve given your answer, but for some reason, the person you’re talking to has taken your no to mean that all you need is a bit of convincing.  So they ask again, and again

And again


Until you’ve become so worn down that out of desperation and possibly a deep desire to make them go away, you cave in and say yes.

Immediately you feel pretty shit and probably quite resentful.  How on earth could this have happened?  How can you say no without backing down?

I feel your pain because this would happen to me, especially at work when asked to get involved in a project I seriously didn’t have the time for.  But it wasn’t just at work. I’d end up saying yes to things at home too. 

  • Nights out when I wasn’t keen on going
  • Visits to relatives I didn’t want to see
  • Running errands ……

But it came to a point when I said enough is enough. So from now on, when I say no, I mean it.

If you’ve got to that point, too, read on.  There is a way to say no and have that as the final word!

Another article you might find useful when setting boundaries and dealing with people who constantly go on at you, have a look at How To Confidently Deal With Opinionated People

You body language has a lot to say about how to say no without backing down. But you don't need to be too obvious!

How To Say No Without Backing Down

There is an art to saying no, and it does require some practice.  The first step is to be aware of how you present yourself. 

Are your lips saying no, but the rest of you is saying something different?  Your body language could be undermining your efforts.  To avoid this happening, have a look at these six tactics.


You want to be confident without being overbearing.  The best way to do this is to stand up straight, put your shoulders back, look the speaker in the eye, and then say “no”.

Tone Of Voice

A firm tone of voice conveys a message powerfully.  Did your “no” come out weak and sound more like a question?  Speak firmly, without shouting.  Sound like you mean it.

Choose Your Words

Take care not to start with an apology, as this will weaken your stance.  Seriously, there are no apologies needed.  Just say “no”.  End of story.  And definitely don’t give a reason.  As soon as you try to justify your decision, it’s open season for the asker.  Believe me, they will find ways to break down your reason and get you to commit.  Remember, the aim here is to say no without backing down.

Mind Your Manners

There is never a need for bad manners, even if you are trying to be forceful.  Thank the person for asking you.  You might even find something nice to say about the request.  For example, you might say, “that sounds really interesting.  I really can’t, but thank you so much for asking.”

Be Sincere

Don’t be tempted to use fake flattery.  Nothing sounds worse than being fake.  You might not be interested in the project/event (whatever the other person is asking you to do), but remember how manners maketh (wo)man.  If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  A simple “No thank you” will suffice.

Don’t Lie

Lies will be found out!  There’s nothing worse than telling someone that you’re unavailable, only to bump into them in a place you’re not supposed to be.  Honesty is the best policy.  Don’t be the person who has to lie to get out of doing things.  It will bite you in the bum.

Say no like you mean it, but be kind about it. Remember how you feel when someone says no to you.

And Finally

Above all, be true to yourself and don't succumb to the need to please others.  


  • What you want
  • Your limitations

The rest should fall into place.

If it’s in your best interests, and remember it’s you that matters here, there’s nothing wrong with saying “no” when you need to.  And, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

Guard your time and commitments like a Rottweiler.  Let the responsibility you have for yourself carry you through, and the rest of the world will respect your decisions.

I don’t pretend that it’s easy, so definitely practice. Make it easier on yourself.  Start to say no to simple things first and work your way up to more significant requests.  You will be surprised at how soon you will be able to say no without backing down.

Oh, and if someone asks you why – dear me, people can be persistent.  I’ve found the best way to answer is “no, but good luck with what you’re doing.” Or “no, have you asked (insert appropriate name of someone who might be able to help).

No doesn’t have to be scary or even over-complicated.  Treat the person you’re dealing with in a way that is true to yourself.  Think about how you would like to be told and work from there. 

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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