Top Tips for Saying No

As we head into the busiest part of the year, I thought some tips on how to say no might be useful, helping you to avoid feeling overwhelmed and instead able to enjoy precious time with family and friends.

Postpone giving an answer

At the very least, you can postpone giving an answer. Don’t say yes immediately. Instead, say you are going to take some time to think about it. You could say:

Let me check my calendar / diary / to-do list and get back you.

I will need some time to think about that.

Then look at what you’ve got on and make a reasonable decision about whether you can do the requested thing or not. If not, use one of the strategies below.

Postpone the task

If it is something you want to do, but you are not able to now, you can give the person a timeframe which will be realistic for you. You could say:

“That sounds great! But I won’t be able to do that now. I could next week / month / after the holidays.”


If it is something you definitely don’t want to do, you can soften the no a couple of ways. You can validate and be empathetic for the other person’s situation. You could say:

“I can see why this is very important to you but I’m not able to help out, I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you but I’m not able to do that.”

Be Gracious

Being gracious and polite is another way to soften a no. You could say:

“Thank-you so much for thinking of me, but I’m not able to do that”

“I really appreciate you asking me, it’s a great opportunity, but I’m not able to help you out.

Be a Broken Record

Sometimes people are particularly persistent and will just keep asking. At these times, don’t be afraid to be a broken record. Simply repeat your no – whichever from above works for you – as many times as you need.

My personal record for this was during a telephone conversation with another psychologist who wanted me to do a piece of work. My line was “Thank-you so much, I really appreciate the offer, but I’m not able to do that”. I said this 7 times during an 8 minute phone call. There we were, two highly trained professional psychologists, trying to out-psychologise each other. It was hilarious. Sort of.

Please do leave a comment and let me know if you break this record of mine!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: