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How to Say No to Bad Habits Without Looking Like a Jerk

No More ConceptEveryone is always looking for life hacks, quick tips to getting things done that will save time, effort and even money. Sometimes, however, there aren’t any easy fixes. To make substantial change, to get rid of bad habits, for example, requires determination, persistence and hard work. How do you say no to a bad habit, like partying, smoking, gambling, drinking and drugging — especially when your friends are doing it? Here are some suggestions.

Prepare your responses in advance.

Coming up with an intelligent, effective answer why you’re not going to stay out all night partying on the spur of the moment isn’t the wisest choice. For one thing, you’re likely to be easily dissuaded by the pressure exerted by your friends to party on. For another, if you haven’t convinced yourself of your commitment to steer clear of these bad habits, you put yourself in a weak and vulnerable position.

On the other hand, by making a list of logical, practical and emotionally sound responses well before you need to use one of them, you’re coming from a position of strength. You can feel confident that you won’t be caught off guard. This type of change is hard work. Be sure to practice your delivery as well as refine your words, bouncing them off trusted loved ones to more accurately gauge their effect. This is a case where preparation and practice is everything.

What kind of responses are effective? While it will vary depending on the situation, as well as the bad habit, the most helpful statements are heartfelt, believable and firm. Perhaps try one of these, tailoring them with your own words:

  • I’m leading a group meeting first thing in the morning. I want to be sharp, so I’m going home to prepare and get some rest.
  • I’ve made a promise to myself to live healthier – and drinking, staying out late, not getting enough sleep is not part of my agenda. This is important to me, and I’d appreciate your acceptance of my feelings.
  • I’m taking some time off from drinking (or gambling, burning the candle at both ends, smoking, etc.). I know that’s not what you want to hear, but I value your friendship and hope we can find other ways to socialize that don’t involve alcohol (or gambling, etc.).
  • I just stopped by to check in and I can’t stay. I have another appointment (or I agreed to pick someone up) and must leave now.

It’s all about the attitude.

Keep in mind that you won’t convince anyone else if you haven’t already convinced yourself of your commitment to avoid bad habits. Take some time to figure out what is important to you. Is it living a healthier lifestyle, becoming more successful in your job or career, spending time with your loved ones and family? Now, analyze your actions, particularly your bad habits, that have interfered with or jeopardized what you consider important. Envision how changing to healthier habits will help you live up to your self-expectations and achieve your goals.

You must work on your attitude before you can be effective in saying no to bad habits. Be positive and forward-thinking. Enlist the support of those who encourage your efforts. Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself – without the crutch of alcohol or drugs or other bad habits.

Let go of the shame and guilt.

Maybe you’ve tried to say no to bad habits before without much success. Perhaps you make good on your promises now and then, but fall back into a predictable pattern. The resulting guilt and shame don’t do anything for your desire to do away with bad habits or your association with friends and colleagues who continue this kind of unhealthy behavior.

You must let go of this suffocating and debilitating cloud of shame and guilt. Forgive yourself for having stumbled in the past. Forgive yourself for times you may give in now and in the future. Reaffirm your resolve to get past these bad habits and recommit to being strong in saying no to them and anyone associated with the behavior.

You don’t have to please everyone. Just be true to yourself.

No one wants to look bad or have their friends think poorly of them. Seeing the scowl of disapproval on your friends’ faces when you blurt out that you’re not going to stay out and drink might pierce your resolve. Yet, if you give in to their pressure, what does that say about what you value? If you live in accordance with your beliefs and values, you’ll realize that this sometimes means you disappoint others. That’s OK. You don’t have any obligation to please everyone. You do, however, need to be true to yourself.

Saying no to bad habits without looking like a jerk may take a few attempts before you feel comfortable. It is worth the effort you put into it, backed by your solid commitment to doing what’s right for you.

How to Say No to Bad Habits Without Looking Like a Jerk

Suzanne Kane

Suzanne Kane is a Los Angeles-based writer, blogger and editor. Passionate about helping others live a vibrant and purposeful life, she writes daily for her website, She is a regular contributor to Psych Central. You can reach her at

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APA Reference
Kane, S. (2018). How to Say No to Bad Habits Without Looking Like a Jerk. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 14 Mar 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.