June 14, 2022

19 Effective Ways to Say “No” when those Two Little Letters just aren’t Enough.


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“No is a complete sentence.”

We’ve all heard that before.

We’ve all also heard about the importance of setting boundaries and retiring our people pleasing behavior and “protecting our energy.” And learning how to say no is a huge part of that.

But what happens when you’re in a situation where a curt “No” or a slightly easier to swallow “No thanks” just doesn’t cut it?

Personally, I’m a big fan of saying no to people and plans and experiences that I’m not 100 percent interested in. But it’s not always easy or realistic to do with people I care about and don’t want to disappoint, or with plans and experiences that I know could be fun or good for me, even if they don’t sound appealing in the moment.

And honestly, saying a firm no and walking away in every single situation isn’t always possible or practical or appropriate.

That’s why yesterday I asked our readers: “What’s your favorite, most creative, or most effective way to say ‘No’ to people, plans, or experiences you’re just not into?”

While a lot of people responded with the expected “Just say no” and “No is a complete sentence” and “We shouldn’t have to explain ourselves” (again, all true in a perfect world), the majority of people were kind enough to share the helpful, funny, and creative ways they say no when those two little letters just aren’t enough.

When “No” isn’t an option, try these instead:

1. “My goldfish has a headache, so I need to make sure he doesn’t drown.” ~ Amanda

2. “I’m not interested but have so much fun.” ~ Monika

3. “I listen with interest and appreciation for the invitation and never say no unless I am sure I can’t do it (other commitments, too risky, can’t afford it) and then I still stay open to doing part of it. I want to support others and keep their energy going so often I say, ‘Please give me some time to think about it.’ I might even change my mind, so I want to stay open.” ~ Wendy

4. “Not my cup of tea.” ~ Sudeshna

5. “Thanks for thinking of me/wanting to include me. I don’t have the bandwidth for that right now.” ~ Corinne

6. “I over peopled this week and need a break.” ~ Jackie

7. “Honestly? My husband and I have an arrangement where we ‘blame’ it on the other.” ~ Beth

8. “Thank you for thinking of me. I can’t because (reason). I’ve also started telling people that I didn’t realize I was overbooking myself and living at an untenable pace until Covid forced me to stop and I’ll never go back to that constant hum of motion again.” ~ Kathryn

9. “Thanks for thinking of me but that’s not really my thing. I hope we can find something else to do together soon.” ~ Kim

10.”My mom said I can’t go…sorry! (I’m 23.)” ~ Killey

11. “‘That doesn’t/won’t work for me’ is the only explanation you owe to anybody. Unless it’s your wife…lol.” ~ Stephneddie

12. “I’d very much like to be excluded from this narrative.” ~ Rose

13. “I always say ‘let me get back to you’ first to give myself time to process. I was a people pleaser most of my life, so I used to just say yes to things I didn’t want to do. Now I give myself time to decide my own feelings on it.” ~ Rachael

14. “My little two-year-old nephew used to say: I can’t want too.” ~ Shirley

15. “Not creative, but my favourite is a simple “absolutely not.” ~ Carryn

16. “Sounds too people-y to me; no thanks.” ~ Nancy

17. “I can’t think of anything I would like to do more…oh, wait I just thought of three things I’d rather do. Sorry!” ~ Steve

18. “Like Phoebe from ‘Friends’ said, ‘I wish I could, but I don’t want too!'” ~ Tania

19. “I love that journey—for you.” ~ Eleni


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