Last weekend my son and his friends went to a dance. Afterwards they talked about the “couples” who danced together, and also about the boys or girls who declined offers to slow dance. Earlier that day, I had written an email to a public relations agency declining pitch that was not a good fit for this website. I had also just told a couple of friends that I was unable to meet with them one upcoming evening.
Upon thinking more about all of this, it occurred to me that there are several ways to say no, yet none of them are all that comfortable to us. Nobody enjoys saying no, but sometimes it just has to be done.
How to say no politely and without guilt is the key. No is too often said in conjunction with an “I’m sorry.” We all apologize way too often. Though let’s face it. We are all too often asked to do something that we cannot or don’t want to do. Yet you do not have to apologize each time we say no. You do not have to be sorry that you are busy, or that you have a conflict. Nor do you have to be sorry that you are simply uninterested.
We have all said yes one too many times for fear of seeming rude, hurtful, disagreeable, or inconsiderate. Sometimes, it just seems easier to say yes and go with the flow, rather than alienating ourselves or starting an unnecessary conflict.
You don’t need to feel sorry or guilty for saying no. Saying no does not make you a bad person. As long as you say it politely.
Let’s all stop avoiding the word, “No.” Instead, let’s go over some ways to say no that are not rude, insensitive, or off-putting. Let’s learn how to say no in a way that attempts to avoid conflict. Let’s say no in a way that is genuine, and that will most likely not cost you future potential opportunities to say yes.
20 Ways to Say No Politely:
“I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”
“This is not a good time. I can contact you when I have more availability.”
“That looks/sounds delicious/exciting/lovely, but I’m really enjoying…. right now.”
“I made a promise to not take on any more projects/commitments right now since I am feeling rather over-extended.”
“I just can’t commit to that at the moment. It wouldn’t be fair to you or to myself to make commitments that I cannot keep.”
“I love how passionate you are about this issue. However, it’s not as high on my priority list as ….., which means that I am probably not the right fit.”
“Unfortunately this does not fit my needs (or time availability) right now, so I’ll have to decline.”
“I am trying hard to make more time for ….. this year. Unfortunately, that means saying ‘no’ to other opportunities for right now.”
“This year, we have decided to set aside our charitable dollars for …… I’ll be sure to let you know if something changes.”
“I am already committed to x at that time, so I am unable to….”
Keep in mind that oftentimes, you are under no obligation to reply on the spot.
“I’d like to think on this for a bit before giving you an answer. I will get back to you shortly.”
Remember that instead of saying “I’m sorry,” when you begin your reply, you can instead start off with “Thank you, but”. This acknowledges your appreciation of being considered in the first place.
“I’m flattered, but I really cannot take this on right now. I’ll be sure to let you know if something changes.”
“Let me check my calendar and if I can commit I will let you know.”
“It’s so nice of you to think of me, but …..”
Also, if you cannot commit in full, but can (and want to) contribute in some way at some point, it is helpful to include that with your response.
“I don’t think that I am the right person for this. Maybe …… would be a better fit.”
“This task is not really in my wheelhouse, but perhaps I can ….. instead.”
“I hope this won’t stop you from asking again in the future, but right not my plate is just too full.”
And most importantly, once we do say no, let’s learn to stand our ground. Oftentimes, this means being ready for a secondary question. Remember that you do not have to feel guilty for saying no.
“You are right. This does sound like fun, though I don’t have the time right now. I can contact you when I have more availability.”
“As I mentioned, I am going to have to decline.”
And if all else fails, do not hesitate to take the simple route.
“No, thank you.”
Do you have difficulty saying no? What is the most comfortable and polite way for you?