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How to Politely Say "No"

Here is a skill that is worth its weight in gold! I was always that person that would say yes because I wanted to be nice or because I felt bad saying “no.”


I know you can relate…picture this: You’re driving home from work after yet, another stressful day. It’s Wednesday and you’re already looking forward to the weekend - two more days to go. You feel exhausted, your back hurts from sitting at your desk all day, you have a headache coming on and you know that when you get home, there are still a million things to do. It’s soccer night for your son and your daughter has a huge assignment due the next day. It’s a pizza night, hands down! As you line up to place your order, you fantasize that this might be the weekend you book yourself a massage or a manicure (it’s been over a month) and suddenly, you smile, just a little – aaaah peace. As you near the front of the line, a friend taps you on the shoulder. She hasn’t seen you in FOREVER and suggests that you have to get together on the weekend for a long, over-due dinner-date. You remember turning her down the last time, so out of guilt you reply, “definitely, I’d love too.” The minute those words come out, you immediately know you should have just said no, but your guilt got the best of you. You leave feeling even more exhausted at the thought of yet, another date and even more overwhelmed than before. Cancelling is not an option because you don’t want to look bad or be considered one of those flaky people.


Which begs the question, how do you politely say “no?” I’ll never forget someone once told me, “when you say yes to one thing, you’re automatically saying no to something else.” Pause, and think about it. What is it that you’d be saying no to? Chances are those things are likely more important. By learning the right language to use, you will never feel apologetic or like you’re making excuses along the way. Instead, you’ll learn how to be gentle, graceful and firm.


The best approach is always to say no immediately. Remember, no excuses or apologies. You have you’re reasons and it’s not personal. If the other person tries to persuade you into changing your mind, stand your ground. Poise is all about avoiding drama and being a confident person. Poised people have all the confidence in the world.


Perfectly acceptable ways to say no:

  • No, thank you

  • I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline

  • Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for me

  • I can’t make it, but it’s so nice of you to think of me

  • I can’t make it this time, perhaps next time

  • So kind of you to think of me, but I’m sorry I can’t commit


What happens if you said yes and suddenly need to back track? Honestly is always the best policy. A good friend will understand your reasons, especially if it effects your health and mental well-being. We’ve all been in similar situations, at one point or another. Lying or making excuses is never a good excuse and certainly not a poised approach.


Learning to say no, takes lots of practice but it’s so well-worth learning in the long run!


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