21 Ways to Literally Say No

It’s just that simple—but obviously it isn’t

As important as it is to say yes to experiences and opportunities, it’s equally important to be able to say No. You may be well-versed in the No—a Friday night date when you’d rather be in sweats? No. A dinner that interferes with your training and diet plans? No. A new job that pays half your current salary and is boring to you? No. Maybe you’re excellent at that sweet, often Southern, “No, thank you,” with a genuine smile.

For the rest of us, there are all sorts of reasons not to say no—blame FOMO, blame guilt, blame a desire to please—but we must overcome! We must say no! We must say no to parties, events, invites, gift-giving, family, food, obligations, and anything that doesn’t make us happy this season. It’s a season of abundance (it’s always a season of abundance, but we digress), we can afford to be choosy with our time, attention, and energy.

So, check out Dr. Christine Carter’s exhaustive list of 21 Ways to Say No. We’ve paraphrased it below, click here for the full list, with examples! 

  1. “No, thank you.”
  2. You don’t owe the asker an explanation: “Thank you for asking, but that isn’t going to work out for me.”
  3. “Thanks, I’ll have to pass on that.” (Say it, then shut up.)
  4. “I really appreciate you asking me, but my time is already committed.”
  5. “I wish I could, but it’s just not going to work right now.”
  6. “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I’m afraid I’m already booked that day.”
  7. Say nothing. Not always the answer, but sometimes it allows everyone to save face.
  8. It’s not personal: “Thank you for asking, but I’m not attending any events that weekend.”
  9. Defer: “I want to do that, but I’m not available until April. Will you ask me again then?”
  10. Defer, version 2: “I can’t do it, but I’ll bet Shelly can. I’ll ask her for you.”
  11. “I just don’t have time right now. Let me recommend someone who may be able to help you.”
  12. Make it work for you: “None of those dates work for me, but I would love to see you. How about this date?”
  13. Spontaneous invites are good: “I can’t commit, but I’d love to do that sometime. Will you call me when you go again?”
  14. Gracious: “Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and support! I’m sorry I’m not able to help you at this time.”
  15. Give someone else a chance: “You know, I feel like moms are always getting to do the holiday parties at school. Let’s ask Dad if he wants to help this year.”
  16. Not-this-but-that: “I can’t speak at your event, but I will help you promote it on my blog.”
  17. Blame someone else: “I promised my coach (therapist, husband, kids) I wouldn’t take on any more projects right now.”
  18. “Thanks so much for the invite, but my son has a soccer game and I never miss those.” 
  19. Set a boundary: “Here’s what I can do …”
  20. (Use sparingly, and only when you mean it) “Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”
  21. I’m “maxed out”: Give people a chance to respect your need to take care of yourself. You might be surprised at how people will embrace you when you use this easy way to tell them that we can’t or won’t do the thing they are requesting, but that it’s not personal.

Image: Some rights reserved by Leland Francisco

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