Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Art of Saying No

Saying no makes us nervous and uncomfortable. Some people do things they would rather not do or play the "avoid the person" game far too often, when just saying no would be easier, save time, and be nicer.

Reasons to say no:
  • You should do things you WANT to do.
  • You should do things you HAVE TIME to do.
  • You should do things with PEOPLE you enjoy being around.
  • You should only GO PLACES you want to go.
  • And most importantly, you should only do things you feel COMFORTABLE doing.
I was lucky enough to get this advice a very long time ago from my wonderful, classy, sweet mother and now I am going to share it with you.

The advice was originally passed on as a way to say no to a guy who approached you in some way and you didn't want to take him up on the offer. However formally or informally they ask... it works. It goes like this:
     "Would you like to go get coffee/dinner?"
     "Can I get your number?"
     "Can I buy you a drink?"

You say: 
     "I am so flattered that you would ask! I'm so sorry I can't take you up on it right now."

Here's how I break it down:
     "I am so flattered that you would ask!"  -  This is your complimentary statement. And honestly, you SHOULD be flattered. They think you are wonderful enough in some way to ask. It takes a lot to get up the guts to even ASK and you should be respectful of it.

     "I'm so sorry I can't take you up on it..."  -  This is your NO.

     "...right now."  -  This is where you leave them with their ego intact. Even if you never intend to take them up on it, SAY THIS. It's polite and lets them walk away without embarrassment.

This 3 part response works in a lot of social scenarios.
     "I'd like to invite you to a party I'm having."
     "That sounds like so much fun! We're going to be out of town, but have a wonderful party and I hope to join you next time."

     "We're all going out after work, are you coming?"
     "Thanks for letting me know! I can't make it today, but have a marg for me!"

     "Would you be able to put together this presentation for me?"
     "I can share with you a few I've had in the past, but I'm not going to be able to fit in a complete rewrite for you by next week. This will get you started though."

Don't spend any more time doing things you don't want to do or don't have time to do. Don't string someone along. Don't burn a bridge by being rude. Don't waste your energy avoiding or ignoring someone. Just say your no early and directly. I promise it works.

I've used this 3 part response a lot in my 33 years and I know it will continue to come in handy. This is my formal and public THANK YOU to my mom for giving me this tool and making my life a lot easier...

...QueenB Says


  1. Such great advice. I really love what you say about why this is so important--especially about not stringing someone along. I think we can do this inadvertently so this is great advice!

  2. Is that why you're not having drinks with me tomorrow?

  3. Oh, Betsy...You are amazing! I love you, thank you, and miss you. MOM

  4. Very good advice Queen B! I love these responses; I need to remember these, I know I don't always.

  5. Thank you! I spent a good part of my life saying yes to too many things and got the gift of exhaustion. I am learning to say no, but have struggled with the how. Your graceful 3 step approach sounds like a winner and I am going to give it a try!

  6. Did you see the How I Met Your Mother episode with the 'right now'? Hilarious.

  7. Thanks for all the comments! I hope you all use "no" wisely... and not with me :-).