• Sarah Soboleski

Helpful Ways to Say No

Some great tips for setting boundaries with others.

We all know the drill... The woman at church asks you to make another batch of cookies for the bake sale. The PTO president corners you to help out with the art show because "you're so creative!" Your co-workers keep razzing you to come to Friday night happy hour. Your neighbor has asked you multiple times to show her how to use her new photo scanner because she's no good at "that new fangled stuff!". Your mother-in-law insists you host your father-in-law's birthday dinner because "your house has better flow for a party." WTH does that even mean?!


Do you see where this is headed? On the fast track to major overload, stress and overwhelm! But it doesn't have to be that way if you use a simple two-letter word. "NO."

Yes, it is a complete sentence. 


Ok, I get it, it's easier said than done, but is it?! Here are some ways to say "No" respectfully to prevent burnout and protect your boundaries:

  • That doesn't work for me.

  • That isn't doable for me right now.

  • Oh, I wish I could! 

  • I can help you come up with an alternative.

  • I appreciate you thinking of me, but I can't. 

  • Here's what I can do...

  • Here's what's going to work for me.

  • I'm honored that you asked me, but my answer is no.

  • I just don't have it in me right now. 

  • I'm going to say no for now. I'll let you know if things loosen up for me. 

  • I want to, but I'm unable to.

  • I understand your request for help, but I'm not able to give a yes to that.

  • Thanks, but I'll have to pass on that.

  • I'm maxed out at the moment.

Notice how in none of these instances did we apologize or say the s-word (sorry). There's really no reason to apologize. It's important to just be clear and stand your ground. 


Also in the examples given, there was none of this "I'll get back to you" business. That's one of the worst things you can do as it leaves the person hanging and if you really don't want to do it, you're just prolonging the inevitable. It's best to state your intentions up front. Being direct has nothing to do with being curt or rude, in the long run, it's better than having the reputation of being wishy-washy. 


Saying no can be hard, but the more we do it, the easier it'll become! Remember that we're not just saying "no" to something, we're actually saying "yes" to what's important - family time, exercise class, extra sleep, etc. Knowing our limits and having healthy boundaries is important for self-care!


How do you protect your boundaries and say no?

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