You can say no without destroying the other person's feelings.

How to Let People Down Gently

by Emma Wells

Learning to say no to people can actually lower your stress level, according to research from It’s important to consider how much you can take on without overloading yourself, and if you have kids, you need to safeguard your family time, too. It’s not easy to say no to the relative who asks for a favor or a man who asks you on a second date, but if you’re only motivated to say yes out of feelings of guilt, it’s better to take a deep breath and just decline.

Be Clear

Don’t use “weak substitutes” like “I’m not sure” or “I don’t think so," says If you’re vague, the other person will think that their request is still a possibility. There’s no question that rejection might upset the other person, but you have to remember that the other person is in charge of his emotions and self-esteem. If you’re simply polite and clear, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Be Honest

It’s tempting to invent excuses when you have to let someone down, but it’s better to be honest than to lie. You wouldn’t want to tell a guy that you’re just not ready for a relationship, only to have him see that you’re in a relationship on social media a few months later. You also don’t want to tell your sister-in-law that you’re too sick to go to her party, only to be caught red-handed at a restaurant with your husband. If you’re honest with people, you won’t have anything to hide.

Preface with Encouragement

Just because you’re honest doesn’t mean you have to be rude and insensitive to the other person. Letting someone down easy has everything to do with your reinforcement of their other positive qualities. You can preface the rejection with something a statement such as “I’m flattered you asked, but…” or “You’re a really great person…”, according to eHarmony staff writers. Try to say something true about the other person.

Focus on You

Remind the other person that your decision is about you and your needs, not them. If you have to explain to a date that you just don’t think you click well, or you’re not compatible, put the focus on you and what you need from someone, rather than listing his faults. If you have to say no to a family member or friend, tell her that it’s because you’re overwhelmed right now. If you can, tell her that you’d like a rain check or say yes to something down the road, to show her that you care.

About the Author

Emma Wells has been writing professionally since 2004. She is also a writing instructor, editor and former elementary school teacher. She has a Master's degree in writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English and anthropology. Her creative work has been published in several small literary magazines.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images