Something I help clients and members do is understand, nurture and honour their needs, boundaries, bandwidth and values. A crucial part of this is learning how to say no (and show it).
Although no is a complete sentence, so many of us struggle to find the words to say it (and often the actions to communicate it). We worry about looking rude/harsh/mean or fear hurting feelings. Then we drag it out, often by trying to say no with lots of padding and a big-ass story (also known as ‘soft nos’. We hope that with this kind of no that they’ll get the hint, but often end up selling ourselves down the river. It’s not unusual for people to struggle to come up with one way to say no, but I’ve come up with over four hundred in my guide How To Say No: The Scripts.
Self-care is knowing the difference between what we want, and what someone else does.
Saying no isn’t wrong. Saying yes when you really mean no not only breaches your boundaries but stops others from knowing the line and where they stand.
Here are 12 ways to say no:
- No, I’m not able to do that.
- I’m unavailable.
- I can’t make it.
- Not at this time.
- Thank you for the offer, but no.
- Thank you for thinking of me, but I won’t be able to attend/do this.
- I’d rather not, thanks.
- This isn’t doable for me right now.
- It isn’t a good fit for me.
- I’m not comfortable with that.
- I’m not really into [ballroom dancing/hiking/threesomes], but thanks for asking.
While it can be oh-so tempting to go super detailed with your no, being clear and upfront always wins out and often spares you from going into unnecessary detail. Like telling them your life story or listing off everything you have to do! The more you say, the more guilty you sound. And if you say yes but your body language says no, or you follow it up with passive-aggressive behaviour due to feeling resentful and overwhelmed, they’ll likely end up feeling guilty too.
Remember, you can always expand your no and give a reason if you need to, but start by being clear that you are saying no in the first place.