20 Ways to Tell Someone "NO"

20 Ways to say NO to a request that would overwhelm your schedule

By Ramona Creel -

Tell me if this sounds familiar -- someone asks you to do something that you really don’t want to do or you honestly don’t have time for. It might be a church bake sale, a school fundraiser, participating on a committee, or even just working late. But you feel like you will let the other person down if you say no. You feel GUILTY already, and you haven’t even responded yet! So you say, “Sure,” even though doing so is going to put you under tremendous stress and PRESSURE. You know that you will probably end up resenting this activity, and maybe even ducking some of your responsibilities because your heart’s just not in it, but you go ahead and agree anyway.

Why are we so afraid to tell people "no”? For some reason, we have been taught that "no" is DISRESPECTFUL -- and even insulting. We seem to value other people's time more than our own -- feeling that we need to bend over backward to accommodate others, even if it inconveniences us. I know we're atoning for the "me" 1980's, but let's be reasonable!

"No" is actually one of the healthiest words that can come out of your mouth. When you tell someone "no," you are really saying that you understand and accept your own LIMITS, and don't want to do a shoddy job by overwhelming yourself. That you value your time and priorities and aren't willing to take away from the truly important things in your life. A little selfishness is necessary, if you want to maintain a balanced and sane life!

So how do you say "no" without insulting the other person, feeling consumed with guilt, or hurting your own credibility? We need to find a way to say "no" without dragging up all of those HIDDEN FEARS -- they'll think I'm lazy or selfish, that I have no career drive, that I'm not ambitious, that I have no concern for other people. And it's time to give up all of those roles you're so proud of -- supermom, martyr, hero -- but are keeping you from finding true peace. Once you've accepted that you have the right (and often responsibility) to turn someone down, you can do it in a way that doesn't seem like a REJECTION. Let me show you how:

"I CAN'T RIGHT NOW, BUT I CAN DO IT LATER"

If you really want to help the person but don't have time now, tell them so. Offer a later time or date -- if they can't wait for you they will find someone else.

"I'M REALLY NOT THE MOST QUALIFIED PERSON FOR THE JOB"

If you don't feel that you have adequate skills to take on a task, that's okay. It's better to admit your limitations up front than feel overwhelmed down the road.

"I JUST DON'T HAVE ANY ROOM IN MY CALENDAR RIGHT NOW"

Be honest if your schedule is filled -- and "filled" doesn't have to mean really FILLED! It just means you have scheduled as much as you are willing and you're stopping.

"I CAN'T, BUT LET ME GIVE YOU THE NAME OF SOMEONE WHO CAN"

If you aren't available to help out, offer another qualified resource. Professionals do this all the time when they refer a client to a colleague.

"I HAVE ANOTHER COMMITMENT"

And it doesn't matter what that commitment is. It could be a meeting or a dentist appointment or a day in the park with your kid. The point is, you aren't available.

"I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF SEVERAL PROJECTS AND CAN'T SPARE THE TIME"

Let people know when you have already accepted other responsibilities -- no one is going to fault you for having already filled your plate.

"I'VE HAD A FEW THINGS COME UP AND I NEED TO DEAL WITH THOSE FIRST"

Unexpected things happen that throw your schedule off -- it happens. So accept that you may need to make a few adjustments until your life stabilizes again.

"I WOULD RATHER DECLINE THAN END UP DOING A MEDIOCRE JOB"

Knowing that you aren't able to deliver a quality product -- for whatever reason -- is reason enough for turning a request down.

"I'M REALLY FOCUSING MORE ON MY PERSONAL AND FAMILY LIFE"

People act ashamed of wanting to spend time with their families -- like it means they don't have goals. Having a strong family is a goal in and of itself!

"I'M REALLY FOCUSING MORE ON MY CAREER RIGHT NOW"

The reverse is true also -- you may have to give up some civic or community duties to focus your energies on a work-related task (and that's fine, too!)

"I REALLY DON'T ENJOY THAT KIND OF WORK"

Who said you were supposed to enjoy your chores and assignments?! Well, if you don't enjoy them, why do them? Life isn't about drudgery and boredom.

"I CAN'T, BUT I'M HAPPY TO HELP OUT WITH ANOTHER TASK"

If someone asks you to do something you really despise, refuse -- but then offer to help with something you find more enjoyable or stimulating.

"I'VE LEARNED IN THE PAST THAT THIS REALLY ISN'T MY STRONG SUIT"

Another way of admitting your limitations. Did you know that actually makes you stronger? Knowing what you can handle and what you can't is a tremendous talent!

"I'M SURE YOU WILL DO A WONDERFUL JOB ON YOUR OWN"

Many times, people ask for help because they doubt their own abilities. Let the other person know that you have confidence that they will succeed.

"I DON'T HAVE ANY EXPERIENCE WITH THAT, SO I CAN'T HELP YOU"

Volunteering to help out shouldn't mean that you have to learn an entirely new set of skills. Offer to help out with something you already know how to do.

"I'M NOT COMFORTABLE WITH THAT"

You might be uncomfortable with the people involved, the type of work, the moral implications -- this is a very respectful way to avoid a sticky situation.

"I HATE TO SPLIT MY ATTENTION AMONG TOO MANY PROJECTS"

Let people know that you want to do a good job for them -- but that you can't when your focus is too divided or splintered.

"I'M COMMITTED TO LEAVING SOME TIME FOR MYSELF IN MY SCHEDULE"

Selfish, selfish, selfish! But in a good way! Treat your personal time like any other appointment -- block it off in your calendar and guard it with your life!

"I'M NOT TAKING ON ANY NEW PROJECTS RIGHT NOW"

You aren't saying that you will never help out again -- just that you feel your schedule is as full as you would like right now.

"NO"

Sometimes it's okay just to say no! Just make sure that you say it in a way that expresses respect and courtesy -- that leaves the door open for good relations.



*******************************************************************
Ramona Creel is a Professional Organizer and a NAPO Golden Circle Member. You can learn more about Ramona at www.RamonaCreel.com.
*******************************************************************