How to Say No Nicely

There are a lot of things going on in the world right now. And some of us may feel the pressure that we need to do more. More to help others, more in our careers, more in our families, more in our homes…cook more, clean more, post more, work out more, heck, even Netflix more!

A lot of different people are doing a lot of different things, but that doesn’t mean that YOU have to. Sometimes, more is unhealthy. I myself have burnt out several times in my life. (I can tell you first-hand, that was NOT fun.) And recently, I caught myself working too many grueling 10-12 hour days.

For some of us, we fall into patterns of DOING in order to prove our self-worth and to feel like we are ENOUGH. But we are humans, not machines. So when is enough…enough?

In order to preserve our precious time and energy, sometimes we have to say No to things. And what are some of those things? OPP aka Other People’s Priorities.

I know, I know. Many of us like to help people and feel guilty when we can’t. But I’ll tell you two secrets. Just because someone asks us to do something doesn’t mean we actually have to do it. AND it’s possible to say No nicely.

How to Say No

My lovely neighbor Katalin shared a nice simple method with me on saying No, that she learned from her mentor:

1. Acknowledge
2. Say No
3. Give reason
4. Give alternatives

How might this look in practice?

Here are my real life examples:

“I just got your message. I can’t give you feedback on your website right now since I’m focused on writing my memoir today. Can I get back to you when I have more mental headspace to have a closer look?”

“That sounds like a wonderful mission to help people during this crisis. I’m flattered you reached out to me. However, I don’t have capacity since I’m already co-leading a global initiative to help others who are feeling challenged by COVID-19. Maybe you can post on Facebook and see who else might be interested?”

“I’m honored that you thought of me for this. But unfortunately I don’t have time right now. Mind if I send you a message after I get some time to review your proposal?”

Sometimes you don’t even have to include an alternative. You have a right to express your boundary:

“What a nice idea. Thanks for including me but I don’t participate in chain emails or chain social media posts where I have to tag a bunch of friends and pass something on.” (LOL, true story.)

And if you already said No and people STILL push, you can:

Simply say: “No. I have to focus on my own priorities.”


You can ignore them. Because if they do not respect your boundaries, even if you respectfully and kindly say No, then why do you owe them any more than that?

Here’s a useful article that might help further: 7 Tips for Saying No Effectively, by Jonathan Alpert. And if you’d rather watch something, here’s a TEDx Talk: The Art of Saying No, by Kenny Nguyen. It’s super relatable and insightful. 

I hope you found that helpful. I believe in you to say No! …NICELY.

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