How to Say No Without Saying No

Learning to say “no” is about setting healthy boundaries. It’s about knowing what your priorities are and honoring them. It is not about rejecting anyone or being unconcerned about their problems. It’s about you, taking care of you. It’s about self-care, and setting behavior standards and examples for others.


If you’re uncomfortable saying no, new to saying no, or you just like good manners, then the suggestions below will help you say “no” without literally saying the word “no”. The best part is that after you’ve fended off a few solicitations, fewer and fewer will come your way.


This way, you can offer to help only when you really want to and then people will start to perceive you as a generous person instead of doormat. Funny how that works isn’t? The more help you give the less it’s appreciated and the less you’re respected for it.


Command Respect by Learning to Say No (Without Literally Saying No)


More Direct

“I want to focus on my own stuff this week.”

“May I suggest I a superior solution? One that doesn’t involve me?”

“I have other/better things to do.”

“I don’t want to.”

“I’d rather not.”

“I can’t help you.”

“I’ll sit this one out.”

“I wouldn’t be of much use.”

“I need to rest.”

“I’ll have to pass.”

“It’s not good for me/you.”

“I’m not interested.”

“I’d rather be alone.”

“I don’t have time.”

“This isn’t the best time.”

“I can’t afford it.”

“You’ll have to figure this one out for yourself.”

“You can do it. You don’t need me.”

“I’m too tired.”

“I’d love to help you, but I wouldn’t want to create a cycle of dependency.”

“You should ask someone else.” (If you can recommend a specific person, then consider doing so.)

“I can’t handle that much pressure/responsibility.”

“Here’s what I can do instead…”

“Not this time, but maybe next time.”

“That’s not going to work for me.”

“Sorry, but I’m not taking on anymore projects right now.”

Less Direct

(Say nothing.)

“What’s in it for me?” (Be careful with this one and good luck!)

“There must be someone more appropriate.”

“That’s too bad.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun.”

“Good luck with that.”

“That’s unfortunate.”

“We’ll see.”

“We’ll talk later.”

“That’s not really my area.”

“Maybe later/tomorrow/next week.”

“I don’t think it’s in your/my best interest.”

“That doesn’t sound like a good idea.”

“There must be a better option.”

Bonus Tip: Keep the excuses to a minimum. Offering excuses is awkward for everyone, sometimes confusing, and sometimes treading on dishonest territory. Be honest and keep it simple.

If none of the above suggestions work for you, then Google is your friend. There are dozens (possibly hundreds) of similar lists elsewhere on the wonderful world wide web.

How to say no without saying no


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