Fifty+ Ways to Say No

by Belinda Munoz on February 15, 2010

no

In my last post, I waxed lyrical about the joys of saying yes after having said no for so long.  I listed four imperative questions to which I routinely subject myself before I say yes to keep me honest and out of trouble.

My blogging buddies Patty, Nicki, Sara and Zengirl cheered alongside me for shining a light on the potent and life-giving qualities inherent in a yes.

Kristen shared a humorous Anne Lamott quote that reminds us of the healing powers of saying no.  She also raised the issue of people-pleasing, a universal tendency that I believe comes from a noble desire to connect and get along with others, and possibly ultimately to please the self.

Quinn and Walter cautioned of the barbed sides that our obligatory and voluntary yeses and nos present; attesting that these simple, monosyllabic words are at times anything but simple.

BK and Nadia reminded us of the sacredness of our word and that there is wisdom in holding out until we are certain we can keep our promise.

One thing that all these astute bloggers affirmed is our undisputed need to say no; a word at once so easy to pronounce yet at times so difficult to say.  A word with such stinging bite destined to chew expectations to bits.  A word with such  finality designed to disappoint.

And yet, disappoint we must if, to paraphrase Lamott, we are to create a little glade around ourselves in which we can get the nourishment needed in order to serve people from a place of real abundance and health.

And if Albert Camus is right that a rebel is a (wo)man who says no, then so shall we be rebels!

Thus, I present to you 50+ ways to say no to various requests, social or otherwise, for time/sanity/control we simply can’t spare/compromise/relinquish:

MATTER-OF-FACT NO:

1) I can’t do that.

2) I have a conflict.

3) I’ll be out of town (or out of the country, or checked out, or out of range, etc.).

4) I never even considered that.

5) I’m not planning on it.

6) I have no intention of doing that.

7) It’s not part of my agenda for today (or this week, or this month, or this lifetime, etc.).

8 ) I’m unavailable.

9) I’m not interested.

10) It’s not my thing.

11) It’s not a priority for me.

12) No.

13) I’m just not good at that.

14) I don’t have room in my life for that right now.

SAYING NO WITHOUT SAYING NO:

15) Listen, I have to get going but thanks for asking.

16) I’ll be sure to let you know if it’s looking likely.  (For the times when we just don’t know for sure if something is likely to happen.)

17) You go ahead.  Let me know how it goes.

18) I promised my _________ some quality time.  Insert “family”, “special someone”, etc. in the blank.

19) The last time I did that, I didn’t love it.

20) Been there, done that.

21) I’ll call you when I’m ready to do that.

22) My schedule’s up in the air.

23) I’m focusing on other things right now.

24) My spouse wouldn’t approve. (For more drama, My spouse would divorce me.)

25) I need some alone time right now.

26) If I agreed to this, it would be extremely low priority.

PHILOSOPHICAL NO (ALSO APPLIES TO THOSE WITH COMMITMENT PHOBIA):

27) It’s my policy to be more discriminating about what I commit to now that I’m older  (or “wiser”, “experienced”, etc.).

28) Life is too short to commit to things and people we don’t love.

29) I have commitment issues.

CURRENTLY NO THAT LEAVES ROOM FOR A YES:

30) Let me check my calendar.

31) I’ll have to check with my family.

32) I’ll see if I can get a babysitter.

33) I need more information.

34) I’ll have to think about it.

PASSING THE BUCK NO:

35) It’s out of my hands.

36) My jurisdiction doesn’t cover that.

37) I love the cause, but I’m not the best person to execute.

38) I’m afraid I’m not the right person for it.

39) I’m slammed right now but let me recommend ____________ who would be excellent at that.

40) I don’t want to hold you up so feel free to ask someone else.

41) I bet you’ll find someone who can do a better job than I can.`

42) I’ll have to check with the powers that be.

43) My mother taught me not to say yes to everything.

CONSIDERATE AND GENTLE NO:

44) Sounds tempting but I’ll have to pass.

45) I wish I could but I simply can’t.

46) I better pass.  I don’t want to make anybody sick.

FATAL ATTRACTION/RESTRAINING ORDER NO:

47) Absolutely not.

48) For the last time, no.

49) Talk to my lawyer.

AND FINALLY, SOME TONGUE-IN-CHEEK NO (aka as REJECTS):

50) I’d rather beat myself with sticks than do that (or crawl on broken glass while firewalking, or pose as a pinata for adolescent boys, etc.)

51) I prefer to lick my wounds in private (or with strangers, or with Dom & Beluga, etc.)

52) I no longer do things that depress me (or kill me softly, or rub out the thin line between truth and fiction, or confirm my ignorance, etc.).

53) I’ll do it if you do my grocery shopping for a year (or do my laundry, or pay my bills, etc.).

54) I’m on fire for the idea but the execution leaves me icy.

55) My window for this is now or never.  Gotta go.

56) I’d like a hefty chunk of the back end.  (Very presumptuous and very vague.)

57) Fax me about it when I’m on vacation.  (Faxing is hopelessly out of date and being on vacation further de-prioritizes the request.)

58) My phone is ringing.  (Phones are meant to ring.  The mere sound of the phone ringing does not indicate its importance.)

59) Asking me to do this is like apples and oranges. (Purposely does not make sense and meant to confuse the other person.)

+++++++++++++++++

Do you have trouble saying no sometimes?  Are you generally understanding of others if/when they say no to you?  Do you think the challenges of saying no are more imagined than real?  Do you have a preferred way of saying no that you’d like to share?

++++++++++++++++++

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Positively Present February 15, 2010 at 4:53 am

Love this post. Too often people say “yes” when they really want to say “no,” mostly because they don’t know HOW to say it. I hope by sharing this on Twitter that some of those who always say “yes” will learn that it’s not always that difficult to just say no! :)

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2 Nicki February 15, 2010 at 5:30 am

Love these ways to say no. I may have to use a few.

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3 Tess The Bold Life February 15, 2010 at 5:53 am

I always say, “No that’s not going to work for me.” No excuses, no anything added at the end. We don’t need to give anyone a reason. We don’t owe anyone a reason.

If they keep asking I repeat it a 2nd time…never never have to use it a 3rd. They get it.

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4 Melissa Gorzelanczyk February 15, 2010 at 6:13 am

I think I should print this and post it on my bulletin board!

Love it.

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5 Fr. Michael February 15, 2010 at 6:14 am

I love this post! Saying “no” is terribly difficult, particularly when people consider you to be in the “helping profession.” I’ve learned–and am still learning–to say no to good and tempting things. I think it was Stephen Covey who said that “Good is the enemy of the best.” Sometimes we have to say no to what is good so that we can stay focused on what’s best. Guilt is a huge issue when it comes to saying no. Thanks for a great–and sometimes humorous–post.

Peace!

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6 Bob Bessette February 15, 2010 at 9:47 am

Hi Belinda,
I don’t have a lot of trouble saying “No”, unless it has to do with my job and it’s my boss asking the question. One of the best time management tips I could offer is “Being able to say No”. You certainly come up with a bunch of ways to say No. How about “It wouldn’t be prudent, at this juncture”, or “Not gonna do it”, or “Ain’t gonna happen”. Or there’s the classic “Not today, I have a headache”. This was a fun post. I’ll have to think on more ways that I say No…

Best,
Bob

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7 Jeanne February 15, 2010 at 10:23 am

Wow, who knew there were so many creative ways to say no? Wish I’d had the list in my other life when I was really busy and often put upon to do stuff I didn’t want to do, and got guilt-tripped by the asker . . .

Add to you list: “I’ll do that when hell freezes over” —

And thanks for the laughs :) , some are good ‘n funny!

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8 Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 15, 2010 at 10:28 am

That is a lot of ways to say no. Makes me aware how hard it is for a lot of us to say no and the ramifications it has. If it didn’t, or if we didn’t think it had, we would all just use 2 ways to say no: “No” or “No, but it’s not personal”.

Cheers,

Eduard

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9 Fawn February 15, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I remind myself on a fairly regular basis that “No” is a complete sentence.

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10 Shell February 15, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Belinda, your no list is the best. Something I can refer to when I need a little push to say no especially to nonsense.

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11 Patty - Why Not Start Now? February 15, 2010 at 8:14 pm

This cracked me up, Belinda. Love it! I especially like #54. I think I’ll try it. I want to be one of those people who can pull off a real sassy “no.” This reminds me of a riff Barbara Sher did in one of her books about how to get away with outrageous “no’s” after 40:

No, I don’t want to do anymore ironing, I think I’ll take up piano instead.
No, it’s no fun for me to loan you my car. I’m sure you understand.
No, thanks for the invitation, but I only go to weddings now.

For the past two years, I’ve been saying a very considerate “no” to teaching at a local educational institution. What I’d really like to say is, “No, it’s no fun for me to be part of your last minute frenzies and dysfunction. I’m sure you can understand!”

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12 Phil - Less Ordinary Living February 16, 2010 at 12:40 am

Brilliant post Belinda – if we want to be authentic, then saying no is vital (along with saying yes, yes, yes to really great things). It is great to have options and be prepared in advance as we often no a tricky offer is coming our way that we really don’t want to do. Your list is like a tool belt for this situation, we can pick the right phrase for the job. My favourite way of saying no is still just to say “no”! Thanks!

Phil

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13 TheKitchenWitch February 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I SUCK at saying no. I need to staple this post to my forehead. I can’t even say no to the creepy meat man who comes to my door with a freezer full of meat in the back of his pickup. I. Need. An. Intervention.

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14 christy February 16, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Great list! I need to print this out & maybe even carry it with me – for all those times I say yes & then spend too much energy figuring out how I’m gonna get out of doing whatever I said yes to…

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15 Zengirl @happy heart and mind February 16, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Belinda,

Nice balance and companion to your previous post. Thanks for mentioning me :-)
Only if we humans know what to say yes to and what to say no to. I find myself saying “yes” sometimes, when I don’t want to be politically in-correct!! Oh the irony!
Hope you or some other folks have some better suggestions for me to deal with.

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16 BigLittleWolf February 16, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Very funny. And very useful!

For most of the men I’ve known in my life, “no” has rarely been an issue. For most of the women I’ve known in my life, “no” has always been almost impossible – and I don’t mean to the obvious adolescent recreational activities – I mean to the hundred tedious commitments that we accept without thinking them through, out of habit, or some need to be needed, and they wear us down, run us around, and don’t make a significant difference.

One I’ve had to master out of necessity, but with difficulty nonetheless: “I’m not in a position to XXXXX (help / drive / contribute / etc.) right now.” It’s honest (which feels good), and hopefully falls into the considerate-but-definite category.

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17 Kristen @ Motherese February 16, 2010 at 6:09 pm

I love this list, Belinda! Like TKW, I would definite benefit from printing it out and posting it in a prominent place. How therapeutic it would be for me to practice this art more often. (Glad you liked the Anne Lamott quote!)

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18 Linda Wolf February 16, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Belinda, this list is hilarious! I love it all, and #25 is my favorite. It’s taken me a long time, but now I’m able to be true to my instinct when I have a choice. I know inside what feels right for me, and I can let the other person know in a kind way that I must decline. I also love the paraphrase of the Lamott quote, what a lovely phrase, “…create a little glade around ourselves in which we can get the nourishment needed in order to serve people from a place of real abundance and health.” That is the essence of no, or boundaries, for me. Thank you! –Linda

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19 Nadia - Happy Lotus February 17, 2010 at 8:47 am

Hi Belinda,

I think the key in saying no is in the delivery. If we say it in a way that won’t offend another person, then it usually works out fine.

As for how I handle someone saying no to me, I have no issue with it. I understand that people sometimes cannot fulfill a request and that is cool. I do find it funny that some people get all flustered about it which shows me how uncomfortable they are.

If we know that our reasons are legit, then there is no reason to feel bad about saying no.

By the way, thank you so much for including me in your post!

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20 Fatibony{self help wellness} February 17, 2010 at 11:57 am

.Awesome and creative list Belinda . I Love Nos4 &5.. Thumbs up for No 12 it’s straight forward and can be communicated in different tones . One on my favourites ways of saying No has been….. I am not too sure about that. Thanks :)

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21 Sara February 17, 2010 at 2:03 pm

YOU ARE SO FUNNY:~) I loved this list and I’m copying so I hope you don’t mind:~) I laughed at number “53) I’ll do it if you do my grocery shopping for a year (or do my laundry, or pay my bills, etc.)” because that could actually be a YES for me as I really hate grocery shopping and will do almost anything to get out of it.

The hardest one is number 12…NO. It’s funny that this one should be so difficult. We don’t have the same difficulty with YES. We can say it w/o making excuses, but with NO, we tend to need a conditional clause added. Such is life:~)

Great post!!!

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22 Wilma Ham February 17, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Hi Belinda
Your post and the comments suggest that we have real difficulties responding to requests.
Anguishing over all the different ways to say ‘NO’ fails to address the underlying causes such as our difficulty with declining requests.
I am learning that a clear ‘NO’ is a legitimate response to a request, and that I do have a right of refusal.
Is that not what a request is?
Otherwise it is an order that I indeed have no freedom with and I feel obliged to follow.
Thanks for initiating the inquiry into how we decline requests as it is a complex topic that gets the better of many of us.
Love Wilma

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23 Amit Sodha - The Power Of Choice February 18, 2010 at 3:29 am

I love this post and was thinking something very similar recently.

have you ever read ‘The Yes Man’?

Great book, in one point, the author says, maybe saying ‘no’ is like saying ‘yes’ to more time for me!

I’ve always believed that you don’t always ahve to say yes to everything and you can actually discriminate in certain ways and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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24 Eva February 18, 2010 at 9:52 am

Ah, this is a great list! Really hilarious, all the different ways we say no. I’m a frequent user of the “saying no without saying no.” For #50 I also propose “I’m rather poke my eyes out with a pencil.” We actually use that one in my office – to great hilarity and great effectiveness.

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25 Walter February 18, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I find it hard to say no and I hate this about myself. The guilt feeling is hunting me should I not consider any request conveyed unto me. But slowly, I’m finding ways to make it easier for me to say no.

Saying no without saying no: that’s honesty. :-)

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26 Michele Mas Martin February 18, 2010 at 8:22 pm

thanks for the reminder that it is OKAY to say “no!” and you know (haha) what? when you do, you really feel better about yourself because it means that you are setting priorities and taking control of your time. we shouldn’t feel guilty about saying no. Time is something that cannot be replaced (almost everything else can) so we should spend it wisely. thanks again Belinda.. always an inspiration to read your posts!

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27 Moreish June 3, 2010 at 10:57 pm

I’ve elected to use one of these a day – but I am using the not so nice versions!

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28 Saurabh Bhirud December 7, 2010 at 9:53 pm

This article has certainly helped my words a lot of time… This is realyy a good job!!!

Thanks…

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29 beyond bluestockings April 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I love this!

It’s wretched when someone asks you to do something and you feel you have to disappoint/anger/surprise them by refusing.

I had my pastor’s wife ring and ask me if I would run the Sunday school. My immediate reply was, “Only if you put a gun to my head.”

While we weren’t, perhaps, such good friends after that, I was saved from dealing with hundreds of screaming children on a weekly basis. If I’d only known of your post (and multitudinous options containing varying degrees of rejection) I may have had my cake, and eaten it too.

Thanks for sharing!

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30 Diana November 22, 2011 at 11:00 am

Thank you for sharing this!! It has made my life so much better. Saying no finally feels good!

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31 Christine February 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Blessings to you for such a wonderful and insightful list. I am working on some affirmations also to help me with confidence and esteem & I have a Boundries Bible study that is not yet completed, but I am a fan of them and it reminds me that when an answer is right for you, it is right for those around you. We all know that when we accept things that we don’t want to, and are too tired to do effectively, our health suffers & and often our reputations because often the quality that results is comprimised. Being a people pleaser is often a direct route to depression.

Thanks for your wonderful gift.

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32 Forrest March 18, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Thanks, I’m 12 and these kids ALWAYS want me to come over. I’m gonna use some of there, so THANKS!

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33 Karen Kullgren May 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I love this, Belinda. You address a serious challenge we women have saying no–which can indeed be depleting for us– but with some hilarious spins, too!

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34 Kia July 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Ha,Ha,Ha, So Awesome I always end up saying yes so now I can do nicely or bad :) <3 :O :(

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35 Osman Safdar February 23, 2013 at 9:21 am

Thanks a million for sharing this list! Its going to make my life a lot easier! :)

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