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10 ways to say no without using the word no

Ten ways to say no without using the word no

Do you find it hard to say no? Do you sometimes agree to things you don’t want to do and then find it hard to cope with everything you’ve taken on? It can feel easier, or maybe even automatic, to say yes to everything without really taking time to consider what we want to prioritise.


Why it can be hard to say no


What stops you from saying no? It could be fear of upsetting people, of missing out, or of losing relationships. Perhaps saying no wasn’t really an option when you were a child and the best way to keep yourself safe was to be agreeable and to do what was expected of you. But trying to please everyone all the time can lead to you hurting yourself by causing stress and feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.


How boundaries can help


So, what can you do to help yourself? Setting clear boundaries with others can give you time and space for the things you really want to do.  It can also stop you from taking on too much and feeling out of your depth, or from getting into situations that make you feel uncomfortable.  It’s a really great way to improve your wellbeing and to protect your peace of mind.


Be prepared


Thinking in advance about ways to decline politely but firmly can help you when you are put on the spot.  As you gradually practise using these strategies, they will become more natural to you and over time you won’t need to think about it so much, but when you are first learning this skill it can help to prepare and plan for what you might say when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do.

To get you started, I’ve come up with ten ways to say no without using the word no.  Perhaps some of them will feel right for you, and maybe you can come up with a few of your own too.


Ten ways to say no without using the word no


  1. I’d love to help but I’ve got too much on at the moment.
  2. Thanks for thinking of me. I can’t do it now but maybe next time.
  3. That’s not for me.
  4. I’d rather not, thanks.
  5. That’s not something I’m comfortable doing.
  6. Thanks, but I’m not free on that date.
  7. I can’t take anything else on right now.
  8. I have another commitment.
  9. I’m not able to fit that in.
  10. I wish I could but it’s not possible.


Find your own voice


Have a think about which ones of the above would work best for you, and adapt them if you want to make them sound more natural for you, or, of course, you can come up with your own.  Different ways of saying no will fit depending on the situation, and these are just a starting point.  You need to find your own voice, so that you will feel comfortable saying them, and that might take a bit of practice and maybe trial and error.


You don’t have to explain yourself


When you are saying no, keep it clear and simple. It can be tempting to give lots of explanations and apologies, especially if you find it hard to say no, but these can take away from the clarity of what you are saying. Some key things to remember:

  • It’s ok to say no.
  • It’s ok to take care of your own needs.
  • You are not responsible for everyone else’s feelings.


Be kind to yourself


If it feels really hard to do this, the most important place to start is to be kind to yourself. It might feel difficult at first, but it will get easier with practice, and the benefits will be worth it.  Think of this as a gift to yourself that you will be thankful for when you start to see the results!


Benefits of learning to say no


When you get into the habit of being able to say no calmly and clearly without getting flustered or apologising, it will bring so many benefits:

  • Reduced stress.
  • Less resentment.
  • Better relationships.
  • Less regret.
  • More time for the things you really want to do.
  • Improved wellbeing.
  • More peace of mind.

Taking care of yourself is important and learning to say no is one of the ways you can do that.


If you’d like some help working out where your boundaries need to be and how to communicate them to others, contact me by email on or by phone on 07305 424417 and let’s see if we can create some space in your life and time for what you really want to do.


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