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22 tips for 2022: You can't please everyone. Here's how to say 'no' and stick with it

Illustration of one person mowing a green lawn with a push mower while another person rests on a lawn chair. The person mowing glares at the person resting.
Klaus Kremmerz for NPR

It can be tempting to say yes to things you just don't want to do if it means avoiding conflict. If you struggle with saying no, learn to ease into it with a "soft no." It can be easier to deliver if a "hard no" — like a brief "No, thank you" — feels too harsh.

A "soft no" is when you accompany your "no" with an honest explanation — that's no longer than three sentences long. For example: "Thank you so much for asking me to do this project. It sounds really exciting, but I don't have the bandwidth for it at this time."

Natalie Lue coaches people to curb their people-pleasing tendencies. She says a common mistake is giving too much of an explanation or being overly apologetic. Doing that can give the person asking for the favor an opportunity to ask for more — or it can just make the person confused.

Stick with an elegant and short soft no, and Lue says you might start to notice a shift in how you feel after resisting the urge to people-please.


Here's more on how to say no.

22 tips for 2022 is edited and curated by Dalia Mortada, Arielle Retting, Janet W. Lee, Beck Harlan, Beth Donovan and Meghan Keane. This tip comes from an episode of Life Kit reported by Meghan Keane and produced by Audrey Nguyen.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Meghan Keane is the founder and managing producer for NPR's Life Kit, which brings listeners advice and actionable information about personal finances, health, parenting, relationships and more. She is responsible for the editorial vision of Life Kit, which aims to serve NPR's larger mission of public service.