20 Ways To Say No

If you have trouble saying “no” to other people’s requests — and subsequently find yourself wrangled into activities that don’t interest you, or that fill your schedule and prevent you from focusing on your priorities — perhaps it’s just because you don’t know the right way to say it. Here you go!

I Can’t Right Now, But I Can Do It Later

Checkmark-Iconif you really want to help but don’t have time, say so

Xmark-Iconoffer to help at a later time or date

Checkmark-Iconif they can’t wait for you, they’ll find someone else

I Can’t, But I Know You Will Do A Wonderful Job Yourself

Xmark-Iconpeople often ask for help because they doubt their own abilities

Checkmark-Iconlet them know that you have confidence they will succeed

Xmark-Iconyou are actually doing them a favor in the long run

I Can’t, But Let Me Connect You With Someone Who Can

Checkmark-Iconif you aren’t available to help out, offer another qualified resource

Xmark-Iconhelping to connect people is a valuable service to offer

Checkmark-Iconmake sure the person you refer will represent you well

I Can’t, I Don’t Have Any More Room In My Calendar

Xmark-Iconbe honest if your schedule is filled

Checkmark-Icon“filled” doesn’t have to mean really filled

Xmark-Iconknow when you are scheduled as much as you are willing and stop

I Can’t, I Don’t Really Enjoy That Kind Of Work

Checkmark-Iconlife isn’t about drudgery — if you don’t enjoy it, why do it?

Xmark-Icondon’t be afraid to let someone know you just don’t want to

Checkmark-Iconsomeone else is bound to enjoy the work you don’t

I Can’t, I Have Another Commitment

Xmark-Iconit doesn’t matter what the commitment is

Checkmark-Iconit can even simply be time to yourself or with friends or family

Xmark-Iconyou don’t have to justify — you simply aren’t available

I Can’t, I Have No Experience With That

Checkmark-Iconvolunteering shouldn’t mean learning an entirely new set of skills

Xmark-Iconsuggest that they find someone who has experience in that area

Checkmark-Iconoffer to help out with something that you already know how to do

I Can’t, I Need To Focus More On My Career Right Now

Xmark-Iconoften, you have to focus your energies on a work-related task

Checkmark-Iconyou may have to give up some civic or community duties

Xmark-Iconif you don’t do it, someone else will take on the task

I Can’t, I Need To Focus More On My Personal Life At This Time

Checkmark-Icondon’t be ashamed of wanting to spend time with your family

Xmark-Iconhaving a strong family is an important priority in and of itself

Checkmark-Iconbe willing to put your personal needs first

I Can’t, I Need To Focus My Attention On One Project At A Time

Xmark-Iconlet people know that you want to do a good job for them

Checkmark-Iconbut you can’t when your focus is too divided or splintered

Xmark-Iconyou will be more effective if you focus on one project at a time

I Can’t, I Need To Leave Some Free Time For Myself

Checkmark-Iconit’s okay to be selfish — in a good way!

Xmark-Icontreat your personal time like any other appointment

Checkmark-Iconblock off time in your calendar and guard it with your life

I Can’t, I Would Rather Decline Than Do A Mediocre Job

Xmark-Iconknow when you aren’t going to be able to deliver a quality product

Checkmark-Iconthe reason doesn’t matter — not enough time, wrong skills, etc.

Xmark-Iconwhatever the reason is enough for turning a request down

I Can’t, I Would Rather Help With A Different Task

Checkmark-Iconsaying no doesn’t mean that you can’t help at all

Xmark-Iconif someone asks you to do something you really despise, refuse

Checkmark-Iconthen offer to help with something you find more enjoyable

I Can’t, I’m Already In The Middle Of Several Projects

Xmark-Iconlet people know when you have accepted other responsibilities

Checkmark-Iconno need to make excuses if you don’t have any free time

Xmark-Iconno one will fault you for having already filled your plate

I Can’t, I’m Not Comfortable Doing That

Checkmark-Iconyou might be uncomfortable with any of a number of issues

Xmark-Iconthe people involved, the type of work, the morale implications, etc.

Checkmark-Iconthis is a very respectful way to avoid a sticky situation

I Can’t, I’m Not Taking On Any New Responsibilities Right Now

Xmark-Iconyou aren’t saying that you will never help out again

Checkmark-Iconjust that you feel your schedule is as full as you would like now

Xmark-Iconunderstanding your limits is a talent to be expected

I Can’t, I’m Not The Most Qualified Person For The Job

Checkmark-Iconif you don’t feel that you have adequate skills, that’s okay

Xmark-Iconit’s better to admit your limitations up front

Checkmark-Iconthe best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed down the road

I Can’t, Some Things Have Come Up That Need My Attention

Xmark-Iconunexpected things happen that throw your schedule off

Checkmark-Iconaccept that you may need to make a few adjustments

Xmark-Iconit is temporary and you will have more time when life stabilizes

I Can’t, That’s Not Really My Strong Suit

Checkmark-Iconit’s okay to admit your limitations

Xmark-Iconknowing what you can handle and what you can’t is a skill

Checkmark-Iconyour time will be more efficiently spent on something you do well


Xmark-Iconsometimes it’s okay to just say no!

Checkmark-Iconjust say it in a way that expresses respect and courtesy

Xmark-Iconleave the door open for good relations

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Copyright 2009 RamonaCreel.com

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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One Response

  1. Pamina says:

    Brilliant – thanks so much for sharing these!

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