Content of the material
- Why Saying No is Difficult but Important
- Different Ways To Refuse your boss?
- 9) I am afraid I can’t.
- 10) No sir, thank you.
- 11) I can’t do it, sir.
- How to Say No to Your Boss
- 4 different ways to say no that still make you likeable
- 1. "Let me think about it."
- 2. "The idea sounds great! It's just that . . . "
- 3. "I can't today. How about [insert new schedule]?"
- 4. "I'm sorry, but I can't."
- How to Say No to a Date
- How to politely decline – 6 tips
- 1. Be concise and clear
- 2. Kill them with Kindness & Be Polite
- 3. Give your Reasons – but without giving an opening
- 4. Keep the Door open
- 5. Refer them to an Alternative
- 6. Understand people's strategies
- How to nicely say no
- 1. Be straightforward
- 2. Briefly explain yourself
- 3. Bring up an alternative
- 4. Keep your stance
- Ways to Say
Why Saying No is Difficult but Important
Saying “no” can be really difficult because you don’t want to upset people. You might be worried about what they will think of you or how they will react. Maybe you’ll lose their favor.
I know, I’ve had this problem too before. Sometimes I just don’t want to say “no” because I’m afraid how the other person will react. It’s scary to think that the person won’t like you anymore or be upset with you. However, saying “no” can sometimes be the kindest and best thing you can do!
But, think about this — if the person is really your friend, they’ll understand! In other words, if it’s meant to be, it will be.
Keep in mind too that your time is extremely valuable. Learn to guard it and save it for the things you really want to do. When you say “no” to something that you don’t really want to do, you are giving yourself the freedom to spend your time doing something you really love, or maybe to be available for new opportunities!
It’s ok to say “no,” especially if you learn how to say it in a clear and kind way. People will respect you even more when you can give them a straightforward answer.
If you feel especially hesitant or shy when speaking English, it might be a good idea to build your confidence with this lesson – 3 Ways to Improve Your Confidence in English
Different Ways To Refuse your boss?
9) I am afraid I can’t
Don’t say a direct no to your boss. This may affect your job and your designation too. You can say this to your boss when he asks you to do some work, but that work is not related to your job. Just say that you can’t do the work by adding words like I am afraid I can’t or say sorry instead.
10) No sir, thank you
You can say this to your boss when he asks you for a lunch or any indulgence. In courtesy, you can say no but also say thank you for showing your ethics and politeness to him. This can keep your boss calm and cool.
11) I can’t do it, sir
You can say this to your boss to say no to the extra burden he is trying to put on your shoulders. Simply say that you can do it. This shows that you don’t want to do extra work and don’t look rude.
How to Say No to Your Boss
Nobody wants to say no to their boss, but sometimes you have so much on your plate that piling on more work would seem impossible.
In that case, here’s how to say no without going overboard:
- “I wish I could help you, but I have a rush project right now, and I’m trying to meet the deadline. I just don’t think I’d have the capacity right now.”
- “In that case, can you give me an extra couple days to finish my other X project while I prioritize your task?”
- “I’d love to help, but I already made plans with my family tonight.”
- “I just feel really burned out now; perhaps after a good night’s rest, I’ll be more productive later.”
- “I’ve really got to prioritize the Y project. If it’s not critical, can you please hold off on other tasks so we can prioritize this one for now?”
- “I might be able to glance over it quickly, but I don’t think I’ll have the time to put in concentrated effort until next week.”
- “This task sounds really interesting—I’d love to get to it! But I don’t think I can meet your tight deadline. Could we perhaps push it back to a later date?”
4 different ways to say no that still make you likeable
If you’re worried about hurting feelings or burning a bridge or two, there are ways to frame the no so you remain polite, professional, and likeable to others.
1. "Let me think about it."
This is a polite and professional way of asking for more time to consider the request. As a busy leader, you often need to think things through before making any decisions.
2. "The idea sounds great! It's just that . . . "
Start on a positive note by sincerely complimenting or thanking the person for thinking of you.
You can then follow it up with an honest reason why you can't accept the request or why you won't be able to make it to this engagement.
3. "I can't today. How about [insert new schedule]?"
This is best for when you truly believe the request is worth looking into again in the future.
If you're absolutely sure this is something you want to consider again, offer to reschedule at a better time when you can devote your full attention.
4. "I'm sorry, but I can't."
If you've got no time or interest in fulfilling the request, a straightforward no is the best answer you can give. There's no room for false hope and you can rest assured that you're still on track with your schedule and goals.
You can tweak any of these 4 scripts to best convey your decision and the reasons behind it.
How to Say No to a Date
Dating can be rough.
Luckily, you don’t have to say yes to every single one of them.
… Or do you?
If you’re struggling to find dates, then perhaps saying yes is the way to go. But if you know exactly who you’re looking for, and that guy or gal just doesn’t fit the billm, then you need a polite rejection. Add on the following in bold to make it a bit more gentle:
- “I’m just not looking for a date right now, but we can just hang as friends instead.”
- “I’d rather focus on my work/school, as it’s my #1 priority. However, we can still study or collab together!”
- “The timing is not good for me, as I just left a relationship not too long ago. But we can still keep in touch!”
- “Sorry, I have strong feelings for someone else right now. But I’m having a house party soon—why don’t you invite your friends, and we can all have fun?”
- “Sorry, I don’t want to ruin what we have. Let’s continue being friends!”
How to politely decline – 6 tips
1. Be concise and clear
"If you want something done, ask a busy person." This famous proverb shows how being a responsive worker who takes over tasks easily can lead you to requests piling up in your inbox. That's why it's so important sometimes to reject assignments and opportunities that are not top of your priority list.
If you have to say no – be clear. You don't want to keep your counterpart wondering, especially if the task at hand is time-sensitive. Not even taking the time to sit down and decline in an email can seem thoughtless and can close the door for future collaborations (see tip 4). But there's a difference between being concise and being rude.
To email@example.com Hi Jason, Sorry I cant. -M
To firstname.lastname@example.org Hi Jason, Unfortunately, at the moment I don’t have time to help you with this project. I hope you find someone else to support you. Sincerely, Mike
Do you see the difference? Just a couple more words, and the tone is a lot more respectful while still giving a clear "no". This leads us to the second tip.
2. Kill them with Kindness & Be Polite
Some people are scared to seem "rude" or "unhelpful" when saying no. You can easily get that kind of reputation if you answer so fast and short that it comes off as harsh. But saying no can be graceful and even feel empowering to receive your message if you kill them with kindness.
People want to feel seen and appreciated, even when you have to deny them their request. So let the other person feel good about themselves! You might have heard of a "shit sandwich" when giving feedback to an employee, but it also works perfectly when you have to say no. A shit sandwich works simply: You start on a positive note "This sounds like an interesting event"), tell them the bad message ("But unfortunately I won't be able to attend as a speaker."), and end with kindness ("I'm sure you'll have a successful conference in any case!")
Some formulations you want to use to be kind & polite:
- Thank you for thinking of me.
- Sounds like a great project/event/idea, but this is not for us.
- I don't have enough time on my plate to offer you quality help.
- "Sadly" or "unfortunately"
3. Give your Reasons – but without giving an opening
You might want to explain to the other person why this particular weekend or week doesn't work. Providing a brief explanation can let the other person know that it's not neglect but that you are simply unavailable. However, you don't need to feel compelled to offer your reasons if the person is a taker, aka someone who takes your arm when you give them a hand.
You want to keep your no as simple as possible with takers, not give them an opening to argue their way into your schedule.
To email@example.com Hi Lauren, This week is, unfortunately, already full of tasks. Andrew
To firstname.lastname@example.org Dear Lauren, Thank you so much for thinking of me. Given my current workload, I’m unable to do a good job on your project, and my other work would suffer. Thank you for understanding. Best wishes, Andrew
In the first version, you risk the other person trying to talk you into helping anyways ("If this week doesn't work, we can always do next week."). In contrast, the second one clearly closes the door. Another simple solution is to write, "I will let you know when and if I can." It changes the power dynamic and lets you reach out tothemwhen you have an opening instead of having them knocking on your door every day.
4. Keep the Door open
Sometimes you have to say no, so you can say yes at the right time. For example, you might have to say no to a project that doesn't fit your current career goals, so you can give an empowered yes when the right project ends up on your desk.
You don't want to burn bridges by declining an offer. A good relationship with your network is key in accelerating your career, so occasionally, you want to keep the door open when you say no. "I'm unavailable right now" or "I don't have the capacity at the moment" are simple phrases to indicate that you're open for a similar opportunity in the future.
Use these formulations with care because you don't want to give the other person false hope that your no could eventually turn into a yes. When your no is flexible and malleable, it can seem unreliable or dishonest. At the same time, it's reasonable to state that while the answer may be no today, things could change in the future.
5. Refer them to an Alternative
A simple referral can be a huge help for your counterpart. Introducing them to another person that can take over the job or that is even more suitable for the task can be worth taking your time, especially with people you work with long term.
Even suggesting another time in your own calendar can be a compromise you can agree on. If you get the same requests repeatedly, you can collect a document with your most common referrals (books, people, courses, etc.) to make it easier for you. If you want to learn how to connect two people, check out our blog post "How to introduce two people over email."
6. Understand people's strategies
"The pushy ones" usually get what they want in life. You might have experienced this yourself: You hired the freelancer who checked in again and again, not because they are better but because they were persistent. People have their strategies to get what they want. If you want to avoid signing up for things that do not move you forward in your career or business, you need to be aware of these strategies – especially when it comes to sales.
Some of the most common strategies to get you to say yes:
- Urgency: "This offer expires at midnight and will never come back."
- Social Pressure: "Other people have donated X much."
- Free Offers: "Start your free trial."
When we understand them, we can also let go of our instant response of "well, in that case…" and analyze what is truly beneficial for us.
How to nicely say no
Following these steps can help you feel more confident and professional when you want to say "no":
1. Be straightforward
Instead of saying "maybe" or "I don't think so," be straightforward in your answer. Make sure whoever is asking you the question understands that you mean no now and forever. When you say things like, "maybe later" or "some other time" you should mean what you are saying. Otherwise, these types of in-between answers may prompt the person to ask you the question another time.
2. Briefly explain yourself
It's polite to give a brief explanation of why you are saying "no." This can help soften your answer and help the person understand why you decline. When giving your explanation, keep it short. It's not your responsibility to give a lengthy explanation with all of the details. After a sentence or two, the other person should be understanding of your decision. Rather than fabricating an intricate reason why you're saying "no," keep it simple and courteous.
3. Bring up an alternative
If you want to be seen as a team player at work, offer an alternative when you say "no." For example, if your coworker asks for your help but you're too busy, you could say, "Sorry, no. I'm really busy with my own tasks right now. If you still need help by the end of the week, please let me know. I can offer my help then." This shows that you want to be agreeable and helpful while also respecting your own boundaries.
The same is true if you're invited to an after-work event but feel too tired to go this time. You can politely decline by saying, "It's been a hectic week for me, and I need some time to relax. Can we reschedule for next Monday?" When you set these clear boundaries, people learn to respect your needs. Everyone can understand that you need some time for yourself, and creating this precedent upfront makes it easier to say "no" in the future.
4. Keep your stance
After you say "no," keep that as your final answer. By giving in and changing your answer to "yes," people may be able to get you to eventually agree to things you don't want to do. By staying firm on your answer, your coworkers and employer will understand they can't persuade you any further. It's okay to feel confident about your decision and be in charge of your own life.
Ways to Say
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