How to Learn to Say No


‘No’ – in Chinese, there is no such a word at all, but there are a thousand beautiful ways to refuse without offending anyone. These are seven options how to say ‘no’ beautifully and politely without hurting the person, but moreover, making them sympathize with your busy schedule.


How to turn down your boss who asks you to stay after work again? How to say a firm ‘no’ to your relatives so that they are not offended? How to make it clear to your friends that you can’t help them at the moment?

Actually, there are lots of options, we just don’t know about them.

Your offer sounds very tempting but, unfortunately, I’m too busy.

The phrase “It sounds very tempting” implies that you are interested. The second part suggests that you would be pleased to participate (or help), but now you’ve got loads of work to do.

It is a beautiful refusal, however, it will work only once or twice with close friends or relatives. If you refuse them in the same manner for the third time, no one will offer next time. This is especially true of parties, picnics and other fun activities.

Remember, just one or two times, and then either change the circle (there has been a reason why you have rejected them all the time), or finally go at least somewhere. What if you enjoy?

However, this answer is perfect for the people you do not see so often.

I’m sorry, but the last time I did this I got a negative experience

A mental or emotional trauma is another interesting option. Only a sadist will continue insisting that the person should do what he did not like. Or it may be a complete optimist believing that “the second time will be better”.

Although, with some grandmothers who are trying to feed their skinny grandchild replies like “I don’t eat meat”, “I’m lactose intolerant” or “I don’t like cooked vegetables” do not work.

However, if you say that the previous time you drank milk, you could not be in the company all day long due to stomach problems, you might be saved. Grandma, of course, will look at you a little askance and with a slight rebuke, but she will not pour the milk into your cup saying it’s fresh/bio, etc, and it is completely safe.

I’d love to, but…

It is another good way to refuse. You would like to help, but, unfortunately, you can’t at the moment. In any case, do not indulge in lengthy explanations of why you can’t help.

First of all, by explaining something in detail, you gradually start feeling guilty. Secondly, this way you give people a chance to get a clue in your story and to persuade you.

Give only a brief and clear answer. No speculations on the subject “I’d love to, but you see, I need to do…”

Honestly, I don’t really understand this. Why don’t you ask N, he is a Pro in this.

This does not mean pinning the responsibility on someone else.

If you are asked to do something or to help with advice and you do not feel competent enough, why not suggest someone who really understands? So you won’t hurt the person, but show that you care and you try to help as much as you can.

I can’t do that, but I will gladly help with…

On the one hand, you refuse to do what somebody is trying to impose on you. On the other – you offer some help and choose what you want to do.

You look great, but am not an expert in this

What to do if your friend has bought a dress, which, to put it mildly, does not suit her? Here comes the dilemma of “who is a better friend” – someone who will tell the truth or the one who will say that she looks great in all outfits. This applies not only to looks but also to the choice of an apartment, work and life partner, eventually.

However, who are we to talk about fashion so freely? If we were, for example, famous designers, then we could criticize and offer several other options to choose from.

And what if we are not? Then either tell the truth, if you are confident in your GF’s or BF’s adequacy, or refer to some celebrities from the world of fashion.

It sounds very cool, but, unfortunately, I have a very busy schedule. Let me call you back… (name the approximate time)

This answer works perfectly if you like the offer but you’re not really able to help. Thus, you will not hurt the person and leave the opportunity to accept the offer you are interested in a little later.

Back at our university lectures in psychology, we were taught to refuse starting a sentence with the word “yes” and then adding “but.”
It works, though not always. Everything depends on the situation and on the person. You still will not be able to wriggle for very long and eventually you will have to explain why you are saying “no”.

However, if you are quite diplomatic and firm, over time, people will know that you refuse not because you too lazy or you do not want to deal with them, but because you are really busy. You will be able to help, but a little later. In the end, people must learn to respect you and your opinion, just like you should respect opinions of others.