How to say no without saying no.

There are times in your life when you really want to say no, I mean really WANT TO! but you just can’t manage it, OR, it’s better for you to say no, but you need to avoid being labeled as negative, awkward or unhelpful.

Saying no when you really don’t want to, but need to, can be difficult, especially if it’s to someone you really care about.

Saying no to family and friends can be one of the hardest things to tackle.

Maybe you don’t want to hurt their feelings or you feel obligated, either way it doesn’t come easy.

If you haven’t read my jellyfish post you may want to take a quick look as it explains why and how I had such trouble saying no, even when I as saying yes for the wrong reasons (and I did this for about 45 years!!!!!!).

Then there’s a whole different scenario when you are at work. This one can be really tricky. You don’t want to create any bad feeling, after all you are going to be there every day.

Having a good working environment may take some diplomacy, but it’s important that you don’t take on too much. This can result in you being excessively stressed and unable to do your job effectively, you may well find yourself on the path to total burn out.

So here some tips that have worked for me on how to say no without saying no.


What a lovely word this is. It looks as if you are open enough but just need more information before you can commit.

The secret is to ask for so much information from them that it’s easier for them to do it themselves. So your answer to them goes something like this……..

Maybe if you can just let me know….. How many, when, where, why, who, any problems you can foresee, how much, are the planets aligned, what statistics back up the proposals

Well you get the idea, be creative.

If they get back to you with everything you have asked for, at least they will have done most of the leg work. If you then find it impossible to say no, you can at least say yes knowing there is very little left to do.

Ummm I’ll think about it

Hopefully in the time it takes you to think about it they will have found someone else to do it. Unless of course everyone else is thinking about it too. Then they may well then get back to you, If this happens just add still……. Still thinking about it or haven’t decided yet. Hopefully someone else will buckle before you.

Another time

This is more definite. You have effectively said no but made it clear that when the time is right you’re okay with it. It’s clear without being blunt and comes easier that an outright no.

I’ll get back to you if I can, but for go ahead without me for now

I love this! You know full well you will not be getting back to them, and probably so do they, but you have taken control so they do not need to approach you again. The ball is in your court and if you change your mind you have left the door open.

I can’t do it right now

Be vague. You don’t have to say when you can do it, and if pressed just respond with I don’t know when I’ll be able to, I’ll have to let you know. Hopefully they will have some kind of deadline to meet or a specific date in mind. Being none committal should be enough to move them on.

I wish I could but……..

Giving a valid reason why you can’t do something makes it very difficult for anyone to push you for a yes. If they do, they obviously don’t care very much about you or your circumstances. Remember this and it will be so much easier for you to give a direct no if they refuse to give up.

Thank-you so much for asking me, I’m honored but….

This is very much a tread lightly phrase when you really don’t want to cause offense. You could have been asked to do something that was personally of great importance like being a Godparent, best man or offered a position because you are valued. Be honest with your explanation and give back the respect that was given to you.


Unfortunately followed by your explanation is much softer than a direct no. You could then point them to the right person who could help them more effectively.

I would love to but will need to reorganise my priorities

Strictly speaking this is not a no, but is worth mentioning for work settings. By saying to your boss

“I would love to but it means I will not be able to complete…… by Friday, let me know what you want me to prioritise” Helps you to avoid burn out and overly stressful situations, thus enabling you to be a more productive, efficient and satisfied employee. You never know, they may even decide that someone else has more time than you.





When all of these have failed you have two options left. Get brave and go for the big no or totally cave in and say yes. It’s completely up to you but be happy in the knowledge that you did everything you could to get the best out of the situation.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *