How to say no, with grace


  For the third day in a row, I woke up in the middle of the night. I was worried about a program I had committed to helping write and cook for. I said yes right away. It was a bigger time commitment than I might have realized. The more involved I got, the more I realized what I was working for didn’t line up to my core values.

I worried about how I’d feel keeping my commitment. Would everyone see right through me and know I didn’t want to be there? Could people tell I wasn't all in?

Isn’t keeping your word supposed to be the most important thing? I said yes, I have to do it...right?

No I don’t.

I don’t have to do anything.

Especially if it gives me this much ick. I can say no. Do I lie? Should I make something up to soften the blow?

I seriously considered it. But there was that ick factor again. I decided to tell the truth. It went something like this…

“I know I said I’d help with [this program]. I’ve taken on more than I can handle right now and I can’t give this program the time and attention I originally planned. I’m going to bow out. I wish you all the success in the world, and if my situation should change I’ll be in touch. Thanks, Jacq”

Maybe you have a hard time saying it, maybe you truly want to be helpful and just can’t say no.

Maybe every opportunity that comes through the door just sounds so OH EM GEEE amazing you just can’t help but blurt out YES!

Only to regret it later.

Learning to say no in a graceful way without compromising your values is truly liberating.

This is especially true when you keep it simple and just say “no thank you”. The end. No explanation required. Hello freedom.

Try saying no to the next opportunity, work assignment, request to bake cookies for another fundraiser.

Here’s 9 ways to say it, without being an a-hole, full of truth so you don’t walk away feeling dirty. And because, well, no one like’s an a-hole.

  1. No thank you.
  2. Non, merci (because everything sounds better in French, oui?)
  3. Thank you so much for thinking of me. Unfortunately this isn’t the best time for me.
  4. I’d love to come to your event and am so honored you asked me, however it’s not aligned to my current goals (which are….)
  5. This doesn’t feel right for me right now, but please keep me in mind for next time.
  6. Thank you for sharing your love of [fabulous charity/non-profit/cause] with me, it sounds like a great cause/organization. I’ve already allotted my monthly donation, but I will donate to your charity later in the year!
  7. Unfortunately I’m unable to help you, but try these people…..
  8. Thank you for thinking of me, I am spending time this week focusing on [project].
  9. I’m so grateful for the invite. Unfortunately my free time is limited next week/month.

What doors might open for you if you say no?

Photo courtesy of Joao Malaquias
Photo courtesy of Joao Malaquias