Here’s a question I bet you’ve asked yourself: How do I stop feeling guilty for saying no?

You don’t WANT to do more work. But you feel yourself agreeing anyway and then resenting your boss the whole time.

And when you DO say no, you feel SUPER guilty.

I used to be the same kind of people pleaser!

When I was younger, I used to say yes to going to parties and meeting up with people. Deep down, I knew that I would have to act like a different person, to pretend to have a good time, and that I was only saying yes because I was scared that they wouldn’t like me.

But I felt so bad saying no to people!

In reality, I would have saved myself SO much energy (and probably a lot of sleepless nights) if I had just said NO in the first place.

And I’m willing to bet you have similar feelings in your job.

That’s why in this blog I’m going to teach you how to stop feeling guilty for saying no at work in 5 steps.

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I used to feel SO guilty for saying no.

Now I know that I had SERIOUS limiting beliefs around wanting to fit in and thinking that I wasn’t “cool enough”.

My 1:1 coaching client had a similar issue. She was struggling with saying no because she was worried about hurting peoples’ feelings. She had this realization:

“I often find myself agonizing over the wording of saying no to an invitation – trying to strike the right balance between saying no but not hurting feelings. Also, I have realized that I am more sensitive than the average person, and not everyone’s soul will be destroyed by a no to their invitation, in fact, most people cope rather well and simply get on with life.”

Some other common reasons for feeling guilty for saying no are things like

  • Not wanting to miss out on fun (FOMO)
  • Avoiding conflict or awkward conversations
  • Not wanting to burn bridges
  • Hating the feeling of letting people down

We feel guilty for saying no because we USUALLY have a limiting belief hiding underneath our actions and beliefs.

You believe that you are in control of what other people think, believe or do.

But the truth is that MOST people don’t care as much as we think they do.

And the people that do have a problem with you setting boundaries?

You probably don’t want to spend too much time with them anyway.

How to stop feeling guilty for saying no at work in 5 steps

Step 1 – Assert your boundaries

This is absolutely key!

Think about it- if people don’t know what your boundaries are, can you get mad if they overstep them?

To figure out what your boundaries are, you can simply ask yourself:

What do I want?

Don’t think, just answer.

As well as having boundaries, it’s important to say WHY you have them so you can back yourself up.

Examples of boundaries that I keep all the time are:

  • Never overbooking my time/rushing to get in between social engagements SO THAT I can keep my stress levels down
  • When I worked in a part-time job, I would only ever say yes to a shift if I actually wanted it (not because I felt like I had to take it) SO THAT I wouldn’t resent my boss
  • Scheduling my day SO THAT I ALWAYS get time to myself in the afternoon (otherwise, Lucy gets cranky)

When you know what your boundaries are and why you have them, you will feel a lot less guilty saying no.

Step 2- Simplify your communication

One mistake that people often make when they are trying to say no without feeling guilty is that they over-explain.

Spot the difference 

Easy versus simple conversation

You don’t owe your job all your energy. You don’t owe them complicated explanations or lies. I had a client who would come up with super complicated stories when she knew they were going to ask her to work. You can just say no and give more information IF THEY ASK FOR IT.

If you remember one rule from this video? Keep communication simple!

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Photo by Thought Catalog on

Step 3 to stop feeling guilty for saying no- Express your boundaries

Once you have identified the fact that you want to say NO, you need to actually say the words.

Saying what you actually think can be daunting- especially if you have never practiced before.

But that’s the best part! Anybody can learn how to set better boundaries and say NO with confidence.

To express myself, I like to craft “I” statements, and keep the focus on myself. Your boundaries are NOT about the other person- so there is no need to feel guilty for saying exactly what you think!

For example, it might be tempting to say that they are making you overwork. Instead, say something like “I don’t have the capacity for that right now” puts it back on yourself without lying.

Be brave, and practice saying exactly what you want.

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Photo by Peter Olexa on

Step 4 – Release the energy around it

In some cases, people won’t like you setting boundaries.

They won’t like that you are prioritizing yourself.

Once you have said what you need to say, make sure you close the energetic pathway.

Remember: You can’t control what other people think and say.

Breathe and remind yourself that just because something feels wrong (in your body, in your thoughts) doesn’t mean that it IS wrong.

Step 5- Take responsibility for your decisions

The number 1 thing I have to remind my clients of?

You can’t use this method as an excuse to get out of things just because you are afraid.

If you truly want to do something, but your fears tell you to say no because you are “protecting your boundaries”, then you are avoiding saying YES to life!

Take responsibility and ownership for your decisions, and use them to reverse engineer your dream life.

I promise life’s much more fun that way xx

Final thoughts on how to stop feeling guilty for saying no at work

The best way to start implementing these steps is to examine your self talk.

When you feel guilty for saying no, what are you saying to yourself?

What conversations are you having with your fears?

Our self-talk can often reveal limiting beliefs that stop us from prioritizing yourself.

Listening to your self-talk is critical in saying no without feeling guilty because you are giving your brain a REASON to not feel guilty.

If you want to learn how to do this in your own life, send me an email at to talk about how we can do this together in 1:1 work life balance coaching.

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