How to say no without putting your mates offside

Saying no to a mate without putting them offside is an absolute art form. We’re going to share some tips to help you learn the art of “Yeah, nah.”


Saying no to a mate isn’t easy – even when you’ve got a legitimate reason for doing so.

University of Melbourne Associate Professor Lauren Rosewarne says it’s something a lot of Australians have trouble with.  

“In our attempts to avoid causing upset or offence, we often mangle declining something, potentially telling white lies in the process,” she said.  

“The difficulty lies in being both honest about not wanting something, or not being able to do something, and also owning your conviction and being politely forthright about it.”

So, how do we say “no” to our mates without getting them offside?

That’s where the art of “Yeah nah…” comes in. 

1. Be direct

Professor Rosewarne says we tend to overcomplicate things when saying “yeah nah…”, making up little white lies to pad out a decline. What works better is simply saying no, but also showing a bit of gratitude for the offering. 

“Be firm in your decline but also offer thanks. This highlights that it is not open for debate,” she says.

2. Explain your reasons

Sometimes the nature of the offer and the nature of your friendship can make it a simple to say no. You don’t need to give your life story, but if you feel like a mate is going to take some offence then there is some use in giving an explanation to why you’ve taken the “yeah nah…” route. Just give enough detail to justify your decision.

3. Don’t leave your friend hanging

Everyone knows a ‘maybe’ is as good as a ‘not attending’, especially if it’s been two months since you received an invite. The worst thing you can do is leave a friend hanging, and then say no. If you have to say, “yeah nah…”, say it straight away.

4. Don’t feel guilty

At the end of the day, you can’t say yes to everything. No-one wants to make a friend upset. But if you have to throw in a “yeah nah…” every now and then for religious, cultural or other reasons, you shouldn’t feel bad about it at all.

How do you say, “Yeah nah…”? Have you ever had to upset a mate by turning something down? Get in touch with us here, we’d love to hear from you.