Learn How to Say No

I am in the middle of several projects

  • Let people know when you have accepted other responsibilities
  • No need to make excuses if you don’t have any free time
  • No one will fault you for having already filled your plate

I am not comfortable with that

  • You might be uncomfortable with any of a number of issues
  • The people involved, the type of work, the morale implications, etc.
  • This is a very respectful way to avoid a sticky situation

I am not taking on any new responsibilities

  • You aren’t saying that you will never help out again
  • Lust that you feel your schedule is as full as you would like now
  • Understanding your limits is a talent to be expected

I am not the most qualified person for the job

  • If you don’t feel that you have adequate skills, that’s okay
  • It’s better to admit your limitations up front
  • The best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed down the road

I do not enjoy that kind of work

  • Life isn’t about drudgery — if you don’t enjoy it, why do it?
  • Don’t be afraid to let someone know you just don’t want to
  • Someone else is bound to enjoy the work you don’t

I do not have any more room in my calendar

  • Be honest if your schedule is filled
  • “Filled” doesn’t have to mean really filled
  • Know when you are scheduled as much as you are willing and stop

I hate to split my attention among projects

  • Let people know that you want to do a good job for them
  • But you can’t when your focus is too divided or splintered
  • You will be more effective if you focus on one project at a time

I have another commitment

  • It doesn’t matter what the commitment is
  • It can even simply be time to yourself or with friends or family
  • You don’t have to justify — you simply aren’t available

I have no experience with that

  • Volunteering shouldn’t mean learning an entirely new set of skills
  • Suggest that they find someone who has experience in that area
  • Offer to help out with something that you already know how to do

I know you will do a wonderful job yourself

  • People often ask for help because they doubt their own abilities
  • Let them know that you have confidence they will succeed
  • You are actually doing them a favor in the long run

I need to focus more on my personal life

  • Don’t be ashamed of wanting to spend time with your family
  • Having a strong family is an important priority in and of itself
  • Be willing to put your personal needs first

I need to focus on my career right now

  • Often, you have to focus your energies on a work-related task
  • You may have to give up some civic or community duties
  • If you don’t do it, someone else will take on the task

I need to leave some free time for myself

  • It’s okay to be selfish — in a good way!
  • Treat your personal time like any other appointment
  • Block off time in your calendar and guard it with your life

I would rather decline than do a mediocre job

  • Know when you aren’t going to be able to deliver a quality product
  • The reason doesn’t matter — not enough time, wrong skills, etc.
  • Whatever the reason is enough for turning a request down

I would rather help out with another task

  • Saying no doesn’t mean that you can’t help at all
  • If someone asks you to do something you really despise, refuse
  • Then offer to help with something you find more enjoyable

Let me hook you up with someone who can do it

  • If you aren’t available to help out, offer another qualified resource
  • Helping to connect people is a valuable service to offer
  • Make sure the person you refer will represent you well


  • Sometimes it’s okay to just say no!
  • Just say it in a way that expresses respect and courtesy
  • Leave the door open for good relations

Not right now, but i can do it later

  • If you really want to help but don’t have time, say so
  • Offer to help at a later time or date
  • If they can’t wait for you, they’ll find someone else

Some things have come up that need my attention

  • Unexpected things happen that throw your schedule off
  • Accept that you may need to make a few adjustments
  • It is temporary and you will have more time when life stabilizes

This really is not my strong suit

  • It’s okay to admit your limitations
  • Knowing what you can handle and what you can’t is a skill
  • Your time will be more efficiently spent on something you do well

Copyright 2000-2009 Ramona Creel

About the Author
Ramona Creel is a modern renaissance woman and guru of simplicity, traveling the country as a full-time river, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. Follow her on twitter and on facebook.

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