“No” is a complete sentence.

“No” is a complete sentence.

Saying no is simple. Two letters. One syllable.

But as simple as it is, it’s often not easy. Difficult. Uncomfortable. Hard.

Some of us HATE disappointing others. Many of us fear a loss of love or friendship if we deny requests. And there are those who crave the feeling of being needed and believe that only they can do whatever is being asked of them.

Whatever the reason, saying no can be an almost insurmountable challenge for some people.

And yet, to maintain healthy boundaries, it’s essential that we be able to say and mean no.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But HOW do I say No?


You don’t owe anyone more than that. No explanation. No justification. Nothing.

Ok, ok, I get it. That’s not really helpful.

That’s fair.

Here are a few ideas:

I can’t . I’d love to .

Offer an alternative:

I can’t that evening, I’ve scheduled some “me” time after a crazy work week.
I’d love to do brunch Sunday, if you’re open.

In this case, the idea is that you’re not rejecting them, but that specific offer because reasons. The reasons could be totally removed:

I can’t that evening. I’d love to do brunch Sunday, if you’re open.

You could make the alternative more open or personal:

I can’t that evening. I’d love to do brunch Sunday and spend friend time with you, if you’re open. If not, how about dinner at my place Monday evening?

It’s not for me. You’ve done an amazing job organizing it, though, it looks great!

Add a compliment.

That sounds like so much fun. I wish I had the time/money/energy/availability.

That’s not in my budget right now.

Be clear with your reason, without using the actual word.

If you can speak to something with universal clarity, that could also help:

That’s not in my budget right now. I’m saving for a house and every penny matters.

I’d love to, perhaps another time?

This is not setting a specific date. It’s just leaving the door open a crack:

This week is booked and I’m out of town next week. Perhaps we can touch base on the 18th?

That’s not for me. I’m happy to help you find a way to make it happen.

Sometimes you’d love to say yes, if only it was your “thing.” It’s not, though. You do want to see it happen for them, so you offer your own resources.

We’re not a fit, romantically. Dang. I really do like you and think you’re an amazing person. Perhaps you like to come with me to [event] so I can introduce you to a few people I think you’d like?

Ah, it’s not in my budget to help financially. Do you need volunteers or people to spread the word?


The challenge with softening a no is that those people who are determined to get you to say yes can always come up with a way to invalidate your reasons.

That has its own value, though.

You know immediately that they believe their right to talk you into something supersedes your personal choices in their mind.

Which, in some cases may be true. The friend who cajoles you into more fun than you’ve ever had in your life, well, we all deserve that person.

The one who is constantly pushing and violating boundaries? Not so much.

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