With the thousands of posts on “why you should say yes!” out there, I thought we’d take a different approach. How to say no. Don’t get me wrong, I’m here for the spontaneity that saying yes can bring, I’m for pushing yourself to try new things, and while I never watched “Yes Man” I’m sure it taught us a valuable lesson somehow.

Yet it’s equally as important that you learn how to say no. Otherwise, you will end up overbooking yourself, breaking promises, and burning yourself out.

Saying no can be hard. You want to excel at work, want to be there for your friends, and don’t want to come off as rude so you end up saying yes to a thousand different things in the day. And how could you say no to such a cute face? This is why I bring you a list of 4 ways to say no to people and their faces.

TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS

These are the people who care about you most, so I find honesty to be the best policy. If you’ve been invited to something and are feeling broke, exhausted or just don’t want to do something, tell them. But to show you’re not just blowing them off, offer plans that compromise.

“Honestly, I just don’t think I can afford it right now. But I still want to catch up so what if you came over next week and I cooked dinner?”

Additionally, if someone has invited you to a party or something they’ve planned but you can’t make it, tell them how much you appreciate them. Sometimes we really are just booked with other engagements, but a friend can take the “no” personally, so throw in some appreciation!

“I’m so sorry I can’t make it, I know how much effort you put into these and they’re always so fun. Unfortunately, I’m booked that night, but would love to get together another time!”

Now, sometimes with friends, they’ll throw what may sound like a good idea out there, but in reality will be a disaster such as moving in together, using your car, or borrowing money. If you’re afraid of something getting in the middle of the two of you, use the “I have a rule” method. Let them now you have a rule, so they don’t feel like it’s a personal attack on them. If you want, add some grandma sage advice for flair.

“My Grandma always told me to never mix friendship and ______. And our friendship is just so important to me I don’t want anything to jeopardize it.”

In the case that you never knew your grandma, or have let friends borrow things in the past that you don’t want this particular friend borrowing, again just be honest with them. If they value your friendship, they will understand and get over it. It’s when you tell little lies here and there that don’t add up real problems occur.

AT WORK.

This for me has always been the hardest to say no to. I want so desperately to excel at my job, the idea of saying no seems like I’d be moving backward instead of forward. But as someone who is not a complete idiot, I am often given tasks far outside of my job description and looked to for answers to questions that have nothing to do with me. And through all this, it’s taken me a long time to realize you can still be a team player without burning yourself out.

Now, don’t be a sissy. Sometimes yes you have to bite the bullet and have a busy week that probably ages you several years, that’s a part of life. But if you’re constantly taking on additional work and picking up slack for no benefit- you need to start learning to say no. For this, I suggest using phrases such as

“Sounds like a great idea, before we get started can we go over my list of priorities? I just want to make sure everything is done right and don’t want anything to fall through the cracks if I take this on.”

This is code for “I am drowning in work and you really want me to do another thing?” By going over your priorities, you’re not saying no because you’re lazy, it’s because there’s only physically so much one person can take on without exploding. Lay out everything you’re already doing, and the time it takes for each item. This show’s your boss you’re juggling a lot of things, and in order to move forward either something will need to be put on pause, or someone else is going to have to do this.

When it comes to work, you shouldn’t have to justify every single thing. But it is important that along with your hard “no” you give a reason why, and potentially a solution or other alternative.

If your boss is asking you to do something just straight up stupid that you would never do because that’s irrelevant- you can’t exactly just tell them no cause paychecks and all. But you can ask “Or could we take this approach…” and give a reason why your approach would work better without cutting down your bosses idea they’re ever so fond of even though it makes no sense.

FOR PROJECTS.

Projects can mean a lot of things. It could be school project, a friend asking for a favor, a client asking for something, etc.

If someone is asking something you’re simply not willing or comfortable taking on, I find the best approach is a firm no, with a referral. You may not be interested in babysitting your friend’s kids, but you know a cheap alternative who might! You may know full well how to do elaborate video editing, but don’t want to do it for a particular client, so ask someone who needs work if it’s okay to give out their email.

“Unfortunately, I’m not taking on any more projects at this time, but I can put you in contact with _______ who may be just what you’re looking for.”

When it comes to collaborating on projects that you just have zero interest in try the sandwich method (good thing, hard no, good thing BAM A SANDWICH).

“I’m honored you thought of me, it sounds fantastic. Unfortunately, I’m not able to take on any more projects than I already have and wouldn’t be able to give you what you deserve. But thank you so much for thinking of me and best of luck.” 

EVERYONE ELSE.

Recently, a friend and I were in a store I have a strong love-hate relationship with. I adore their merchandise, but cannot stand their business approach. No matter what store I’m in of theirs, a salesperson insists on bringing over clothes to show me that they “think I’d like”. Now I understand this would not bother many people, some may even enjoy it and I’m sure it works for sales. But it drives me up the wall. I would much rather just look on my own than sit through you showing me 6 new dresses you got in that will look like a teeshirt of my freak body and 5 pairs of pants that could barely serve as capris on my 36″ inseam.

So while in the store after I was immediately approached with “new things!” I politely, in a nice tone, with a genuine smile said: “Thanks so much for bringing these over, but no thank you.” This is not a groundbreaking statement. But once the girl had left my friend turned to me and said “Wow, I would have just ended up saying yes and trying things I didn’t like on. I need to learn to say no more.”

It’s wonderful to not want to hurt someone’s feelings, but that does not mean you need to waste your time saying yes to a total stranger. Don’t allow yourself to get bullied into junk you don’t want because you’re afraid of saying no. Keep it short, simple, to the point but polite.

I like to always acknowledge what the person is doing, and thank them if applicable. This way you’re not dismissive, you simply just do not want something and are not wasting time.

“Thank you for thinking of me, but I just have too much on my plate right now.”

“I’d rather not, but thank you so much for the offer.”

And that’s it. You don’t need to explain why, or what’s on said plate of yours. Just a simple thank you, but no will usually suffice.