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A Woman with a Cell Phone

Saying “No” is Easier Than You Think

You don’t have to share the “why, “it’s okay to say no simply say no and keep your reasons to yourself.  

Saying no can be difficult in the best of times. During times of change or when you are dealing with emotional pressures, saying no to well meaning friends, family and colleagues can be even more challenging. It’s important to know and believe, that no matter who is asking, you have the right to say no. You don’t have to have an excuse; you can say no because it’s simply something you don’t want to do.

Saying No to Family

Family can be the hardest to say no to. Maybe they want to help, help you unpack, watch the kids, buy groceries, fix you up on a date or assist with chores around your home. Those reasons can include not wanting their help for any reason, wanting emotional space, you want to do it yourself, or you don’t want to feel like you owe them something. You don’t have to share the “why, “it’s okay to say no simply say no and keep your reasons to yourself.  What might that look like?

A older and younger woman talking
  • Mom, thanks so much for offering to help me unpack. I’d really like to take my time and do it myself.  You are so kind for offering, but I need to say no.
  • Dad, thank you for wanting to fix the fence this weekend. I have it on my list of things that need to be done and it’s something I want to do myself. Thank you for showing your love by offering to help.  This time I need to do it myself.
  • Sis, thank you for offering to watch the kids. You are always so good to me. I may ask you to help another time, but this time I’d like to keep them close. Thank you again for being such a good sister and aunt.

Turning down Invitations

Friends and family believing that you might need more companionship, may suddenly begin asking you to come to dinner, go to a show, or simply have a drink. When you want to go and it fits your mood and your schedule, go. But, if for any reason you don’t want to go – say no. Your no may look like this:

…they do not need to accept your no. You can simply, and kindly restate your boundaries.

  • You are wonderful for wanting to entertain me.  I have to say no this time.  I appreciate your thoughtfulness.
  • Thanks for inviting me to dinner Sally. You are a great cook.  It pains me to do, but I have to say no thanks. Maybe another time.
  • Drinks afterwork? Sounds like fun, but I won’t be coming tonight.  Have a great time.  Thanks again for the invite.

How to say no to extra projects or work?

This can be tricky. Feel free to take time to think about it. You may want to prioritize according to who is asking. Let’s look at some examples.

  • A co-worker wants to use your experience and knowledge to help plan their new project.  These are the easiest to turn down.  A simple reply might be, “Thanks for inviting me to be part of your planning group.  Unfortunately, I have multiple items that I am managing currently and through this fiscal year. My schedule for completion is tight.  I will not be able to participate.  I wish you the best.” If you want to be helpful, suggest they invite someone from your team, or another team who can help to fill a knowledge gap.
  • Emails can turn into meeting requests. When this happens, you can offer to help, but say no to the meeting. “My schedule has been crazy lately; I won’t be able to make this meeting. Email is usually more convenient for me. If you’d like to send me the agenda, I can email you my thoughts prior to the meeting. Thank you for understanding.”
  • If it’s your Boss, it’s hard to say no.  If your plate is already full, push back. Send a list of your current priorities and ask which ones can be shifted to allow you work on the new project/task.

What about those who won’t take no for an answer?

Some people keep pushing and just won’t accept the word “No.” They do not need to accept your no. You can simply, and kindly restate your boundaries. 

  • You can restate your no. If you want to soften the impact you can also say, “I see this is hard for you to accept, but my answer is no.”
  • Express your discomfort. “I said no. Again, I appreciate the offer (your need for help etc.) Your refusal to acknowledge my no is making me uncomfortable.”
  • If none of these work, you can simply walk away. If you feel the need you can share, “This is now very uncomfortable. I said no. I’m beginning to feel disrespected. I am not going to change my mind. I need to walk away now.”

Saying No is Drawing a Boundary

Saying no is acknowledging your right to have boundaries. Boundaries about how you spend your time or who you share your time with. The advice in this post is for dealing with relatively ordinary people. Most people will respect your boundaries, and respect your right to say no. When people refuse to do this, it may be time to step away from the relationship for a short time for important relationships, and a longer time or permanently for those who are simply acquaintances. You deserve to be respected and listened to.

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