5 Clever Ways to Say No Without Being Mean

Focusing is about saying no.
~ Steve Jobs

We need to learn the slow yes and the quick no.
~ Warren Buffett

And there you go. People say yes too often because they believe saying no will hurt someone’s feelings or cause a backlash. And….then these yes-people tend to become resentful and passive-aggressive. Fun:)

No. No Thanks, No Way. H*ll No! I don’t want to. Absolutely not.

These are all not so subtle ways to say no. Saying no can be hard. According to Psychology Today, there are many reasons people shy away from saying no. Below is a short list of reasons:

Do not want to hurt or disappoint someone.
Desire to be unique.
It’s harder for women.
Want to fit in.
Fear conflict.

There are many other reasons we may say no. From wanting to get a head at work to trying to win that date, saying no can be downright hard. But, sometimes when we say yes, we give our power and energy to things that don’t matter. That can hurt us by causing stress and leaving little time for self-care. But, how do you say no in a nice way so you do not burn bridges along the way? We are glad you asked! Boost your communication skills by checking out these five ways to say no nicely.

If you’re interested in why communication skills are so important, you should read this summary of the most important research:

The Importance of Communication Skills [Top 10 Studies]

1. You Have a Full Calendar

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Sometimes you can make yourself unavailable by using the calendar as your aid. This can work for long or short term asks. For example, if someone asks if you can help them with a task right away, you can simply tell them you have something scheduled and you are unavailable. This is not saying no directly. This is letting the person know you are not available on a whim or when they need you because you plan ahead and are busy.

2. Redirection

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Sometimes it is a matter of pointing the person to another resource. This tells them you are not the person to always ask for advice or whatever it is people are asking of you. For example, if someone asks for help with a software issue, you can direct them to the help desk. You are saying no, but offering an alternative solution, which is a nice way to say no.

3. Be Aloof

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Think of someone you know who is aloof. They are perhaps bright and capable, but somehow hard to pin down. This means they are not your first go to person when you need something. Try being aloof. Another term commonly used for this is called fogging. Simply using phrases like “That’s Possible’” or “Perhaps’” can seem vague, but it is a way of saying no and creating a fog of confusion around the person asking for something so they will not be able to get what they need because they cannot pin you down. You are not saying no, but you are not saying yes either.

4. Pause for a Breath

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Sometimes it is going to be a situation where there could be some consequences to saying no. In situations like this, you will need to ask for time to consider your choice. Then, really think about the consequences of your no, including pros and cons. Also you can talk to a mentor or friends. Once you make that decision, it is not something that you are going to do with all the information from your thinking in mind, you can let the asker know you are unable to because of a higher priority. They do not have to know what it is or why. You can state it is a personal matter.

Once you make that decision, it is not something that you are going to do with all the information from your thinking in mind, you can let the asker know you are unable to because of a higher priority. They do not have to know what it is or why. You can state it is a personal matter.

5. Just Say No

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Sometimes the nicest thing is to be direct and not mislead anyone. In some cases, the asker may appreciate honesty and prefer that to another tactic. In this case, saying no is the nice thing to do. It allows the asker to find the resource they need elsewhere. You have to know the asker’s personality. And you can always ask if they want a direct and honest response.

There you have it! Saying no can be scary for many reasons, but it does not have to stop you from taking care of you. With these five ways to say no in a nice way, you can make time for the more important things in your life.