7 Simple Ways
to Say ‘No’

7 Simple Ways to Say ‘No’

I s your plate overloaded with obligations? Too many activities and too little time? Do you have difficulty saying the N-word? No. Nope. Nah. Are you always trying to be nice to others at the expense of yourself? Well, you’re not alone…

When you’re over committed and stressed out, you can feel overwhelmed. The answer to it can be as straightforward as just saying ‘no’.

But what makes it so hard to say no? Of course you are a kind soul at heart. You don’t want to turn people away and you want to help where possible.

Maybe you want to be agreeable. You don’t like to introduce negativity into the conversation. Or maybe it is fear of conflict and are you afraid the person might be angry if s/he’s rejected, which might lead to an ugly confrontation.

If you nodded to any of the reasons, I’m with you. They all applied to me at one point or another [and once in a while still do]. However, I realized these reasons are more misconceptions than anything. Because saying no isn’t necessarily selfish. When you say no to a new commitment, you’re honoring your existing obligations. Your ensuring that you’re able to devote high-quality time to them.

Furthermore, saying no allows you to try new things. Just because you’ve always helped plan the yearly family barbecue it doesn’t mean you have to do it forever. Saying no gives you time to pursue other interests. And when you say no, you open the door for someone else to step up. S/he may not do things the way you would, but that’s OK. They’ll find their own way.

At the end of the day, it’s more about how you say no, rather than the fact you’re saying no, that affects the outcome. Rather than avoid it altogether, it’s all about learning the right way to say no. Really, like all fears the fears of saying no are just in our mind.

You have your own priorities and needs, just like everyone has theirs. Saying no is about respecting and valuing yourself and your time. Saying no is your prerogative. That’s why we give you seven simple ways to say no:

Don’t respond immediately

‘Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.’
When you are asked to do something that isn’t a part of your primary focus, simply tell the person that you will get back to them. If the person is sincere about the request, s/he will be more than happy to wait a short while. Specify a time-range where the person can expect a reply.Take a little time to assess the pros and cons of saying yes. Reflect upon your goals and review how saying yes will affect them. Even if it’s a simple request, it may put you behind schedule. Is it worth it?

Mind you, if you’re not interested in what the person has to offer at all, don’t lead him/her on with this one. Use methods #3 and #5 which are definitive.

Recommend someone else

‘I’m not the best person to help you with this. Why don’t you try [X]?’
If you are being asked for help in something which you can’t contribute much to or don’t have resources to help, let them know they are looking at the wrong person. If possible, refer them to a lead they can follow-up on, whether it’s someone you know or someone who might know someone else. Offer an alternate contact so the person doesn’t end up in a dead end. This way you help steer the person in the right place.

Keep it simple

‘No, I can’t.’
The simplest and most direct way to say no. Don’t think so much about saying no and just say it outright. You’ll be surprised when the reception isn’t half as bad as what you imagined it to be. Don’t feel obligated to explain. You have your reasons and they may not be ones you wish to discuss. If this is the case, try saying something like, ‘I’m just not able to’ and leave it at that. If the case really is one that you feel okay explaining, make your explanation as simple as possible.

Be gentle

‘I’d love to do this, but …’
A gentle way of breaking no to the other party. It’s encouraging as it lets the person know you like the idea of helping out [of course, only say this if you mean it] and there’s nothing wrong with his/her request. Keep your explanation why you can’t help as simple as possible.

Be clear about it

‘I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.’
If you are too busy, this will be applicable. This lets the person know your plate is full at the moment, so s/he should hold off on this as well as future requests. If it makes it easier, you can also share what you’re working on so the person can understand better. Again, keep this explanation as simple as possible.

Be appreciative

‘I appreciate you thinking of me, and I’m honored by the request. But…’
It’s almost never an insult when people make requests of you. They’re asking for your help because they trust you and they believe in your capabilities to help. So thank them for thinking of you for making the request/invitation. Don’t worry, this doesn’t need to lead to a yes.

Be as resolute as they are pushy

‘My answer is still no and I’m not going to change my mind.’
Some people don’t give up easily. That’s their prerogative. Give yourself permission to be just as determined as they are. They’ll respect you for it.

Saying no won’t be easy if you’re used to saying yes all the time. But learning to say no is an important part of simplifying your life and managing your stress. And with practice, you may find saying no gets easier!

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How about you?
Do you value your time enough to say no when necessary?
Maybe you have some tips or insights to share?
Please do and leave a comment below!
Thank you.

Mirjam Stoffels

Founder of seven2success, guest blogger at TEDx, Project Eve and 365 dagen succesvol. In my mission to make seven2success the biggest platform of knowledge and inspiration for women, by women, I want to inspire you with our content! Check us out on Facebook and Twitter! I’d love to connect! 
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  1. This is a great blog post :)
    The best piece of advice I ever received regarding ‘no’ was…I am not required to give a reason. A simple “No, thank you, maybe next time but not right now” will work just fine.

    • Mirjam Stoffels

      Thank you for stopping by, Marnie!
      That is a good advice: you’re not required to give a reason. So often we feel obligated to explain. To justify our No.
      You have your reasons to say No and there is no need to discuss them!


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