Saying no is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn to do. I know it sounds dumb, but I could never say no because I’d always feel guilty for rejecting or letting someone down.
However, saying yes all the time is probably worse in the long run. Saying yes all the time could make your peers lose respect from you and take you for granted. You turn into a people pleaser (never a good thing) and before you know it, you’re doing everything for everyone else and feel overwhelmed, over-scheduled and resentful. I know some people may laugh; after all, saying the word “no” only requires opening your mouth and uttering a syllable; however, this is a great problem for some.
Whether it’s saying no to a close friend, a complete stranger or your boss, here are some ways to say “no” nicely.
How to Say No
I’ve been told that to say no gently is to just make up an excuse, which I think is dishonest and probably not the best – we all know what happens when you get caught in a lie! Here are some things to remember when saying no:
Be polite but firm
Keep your voice firm, but remember to be polite, too. Being firm also shows that you are not likely to change your mind, so the other person will probably leave you alone and not want to pressure you.
Never say “I Don’t Know”
“I don’t know” is like the universally term to show someone you can be easily persuaded. Do not say I don’t know when trying to say no. The thing with phrases like that is that the person will continue to ask, since they obviously want something from you. So make sure there is no room for discussion!
“Close” the conversation
The second thing to remember is that when saying no, there needs to be a ‘close’ in your answer, so there is no questions needed to ask. ( A close is really vital so the person gets the message clearly, especially the whole guilt-trip thing! In most cases, a simple “sorry” is enough. But don’t be over apologetic, either. They might sense your guilt and try to pressure you. Say everything once and mean it.
Remember to thank them
Even if you say “no”, you still need to have some manners! If it’s a business opportunity or an invite, always remember to say thank you somewhere in your response. Make sure they know you appreciate them but have to decline – and that you’re declining the request, not them.
After saying no, remove yourself from the situation, just in case the guilt sets in and you change your mind – which will only hurt you in the future, since that person knows they can play on your guilt. They may also think that your ‘no’s eventually become your ‘yes’” and that’s never good. Too much expectations, pressure and stress. Who needs that?
Ways to Say No
Sometimes you want to say no, but you just don’t know how. ‘No’ sounds so mean, doesn’t it? Luckily, there are ways to be firm and polite to dismiss something or someone. Adding a ‘sorry’ before saying no always works, too! Here are ways to say no politely:
- “I’m sorry, I cannot fit that into my calendar as of now.”
- “I’m not comfortable with that.”
- “I’m going to have to pass.”
- “It’s not the right time for me, sorry.”
- “Sorry, I have some prior engagements to attend to.”
- “I’m sorry, I told my family I’d spend more time with them.”
- “I don’t want to say no, but I have to.”
- “I don’t want to say yes and let you down, so it’s a no from me.”
- “I’m sorry, I can’t do this right now.”
- “Sorry, not right now.”
- “Sorry, but I can’t say yes.”
- “I made a resolution to say no more often.”
- “I’d love to, but I just don’t have the time.”
- “You caught me in a bad time, so I’ll have to say no. Sorry about that.”
Looking for more indepth help for this topic? Check out the following books:
Left to right: The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It — And Mean It and Stop People-pleasing Forever by Susan Newman; When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith and How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty: And Say Yes to More Time, More Joy, and What Matters Most to You by Patti Breitman & Connie Hatch.
Learning to say no is one of those life skills that we need in all areas of our lives, whether in our personal life, relationships, workplaces or daily lives. Saying no will allow you to focus on things you actually want to do, create personal boundaries where needed, and you might even be respected for it. So don’t feel guilty about it! With everything, it will get easier each time and you’ll get the hang of it.