35 ways to say no

By: Josée Larivée Author: Canadian Living Credits:


35 ways to say no

By: Josée Larivée
Extricate yourself with a smile: Ways to say no diplomatically
1. The restaurant hostess seats you at a table near the kitchen.
Humour is your best bet in this situation. Laugh and say, “Hmm, we came here tonight to get out of the kitchen!”

2. A friend of a friend is a little overzealous with a kiss on the lips when he runs into you on the street.
You have to be faster than he is! Hold out your hand for a friendly shake while placing your other hand on his shoulder, thus keeping a comfortable distance between the two of you. He should get the message.

3. It seems as if every charity is knocking at your door asking for a donation. Your budget is limited, so you must choose which to support and which to turn down.
If you’re unsure about supporting a particular charity: “I have already committed to supporting two other causes. Unfortunately, my budget doesn’t allow me to add a third.”

4. If money is tight: “I admire your organization. I can’t write you a cheque at the moment, but please know that you have my moral support.”

5. If you’re not sure that money will truly help: “Please leave me your contact information. I would rather help by volunteering.” (Also: See how to make your charitable donations really count.)

6. This week, you said no when your teen asked for a pair of $150 shoes, a second winter coat and an extension on his curfew for Friday night. Now he’s asking if he can sleep over at his girlfriend’s house!

“No” is the expected response, but sometimes you feel like all you ever say is no. Monique Therrien, a clinical psychologist in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, Que., who specializes in children and teen psychology, says that in order to learn how to say no, one must first have been told no. Children must learn to deal with having their requests denied. If they don’t, they will be unable to cope with being told no later in life. However, Therrien notes that parents should ask teens to give them some time to think things over. “The worst thing parents can do is say no and then change their minds,” she says. (We've also got help for when your teen rebels.) 

The slap shot: Ways to say no directly

The telephone rings late at night and it’s a survey firm calling.

7. “May I take a few minutes of your time?”
“No, I’m sorry.”

8. What if the person asks very nicely? Then you say no very nicely.
“No, I’m sorry. You can’t,” you say with a smile in your voice to match their friendly tone.

9. “Perhaps there is a better time to reach you?”
“No, I’m sorry,” you say with the same smile in your voice.

If the caller persists, repeating these words should put an end to the conversation.

The telephone rings again.
It’s a particularly tenacious telemarketing firm.

If you sense that the caller won’t be put off by a simple no, all bets are off and any excuse is fair game. Here are some of our favourites.

10. “My parents aren’t home.”

11. “I’m the housekeeper.”

12. “I just declared bankruptcy.”

13. “I work for your competitor.”

14. “I get it at the office” or “I read it at the library.”

15. “Can you call back during the daytime?”

16. “I would be happy to contribute to the university’s fund as soon as I finish paying off my student 15 years.” (Even if you've followed steps to pay off debt faster.)

17. Or employ the technique used on an old “Seinfeld” episode: “Give me your phone number and I’ll call you back at home.”

Next page: Say no to your friend, your boss...and even your grandma.

In response to... You reply...

18. "You know what I mean?"
"To tell you the truth, no,I don't know."

19. "Do you mind very much if I smoke inside?"
"Do you mind smoking outside?"

20. "Do you understand?"
"No, please explain; that would be helpful."

When enough is enough: the unequivocal no

21. Your boyfriend asks, "Can you take care of buying birthday gifts for my family and yours? I'm really busy."
"Darling, you know I love surprises as much as you do. I don't want to know what's in every gift box. So, here's your list...and here's mine!" Then plant a kiss on his lips. That always helps.

22. A friend tells you, "You can't say no to me; you owe me one."
That's blackmail! Do you really owe her one? If so, you're stuck. "That's true, and it would be my pleasure to help you, but I reserve the right to choose the date and time." Since saying this may sound silly, it's best to respond with a good dose of sweetness in your voice and a pleasant smile.

23. If you don't recall why you owe her one, tell her: "Please refresh my memory." If she can't remember what you owe her for either, she has lost her case.

24. A friend asks if you can babysit her three children. Frankly, babysitting is not your thing and you don't want to do it.
You may think that you can't just say, "Sorry, I can't," without making up an excuse, but you can.

Yes and no: the negotiated no
Your neighbour is going on vacation and asks you to take care of his dog and cat, water his plants and take in his mail.

25. Before you say no, remember that one hand washes the other.
Be certain that you will never need this person's help with anything before you answer.

26. If you're prepared to help out but not take on the entire household, say: "I'm sorry, but I'm out of the house a lot. I can't take care of the dog and cat, but I'd be happy to take in your mail and check your messages once or twice a week if you'd like." as Johanne Marcil, a psychotherapist from the Laurentides, Que., and owner of three dogs, points out, "You shouldn't mess up your own plans. That would only increase your frustration."

27 . For the past several weeks, you've been watching your diet and you're starting to see results. Then your grandmother arrives, bringing her maple fudge, pies and famous Black Forest cake. She wants you to taste some of everything.
"Please serve me small portions – just a bite or two at the most. Since I started watching my weight, I'm more conscious of what I eat, and if I have too much, I won't feel well."

28. Your boss asks you to attend a meeting when you're already inundated at work.
Quickly list everything you have to do today and ask her advice on how to prioritize your work if you attend the meeting.

29. Your boss insists: She thinks you can get everything done today.
"I can if I manage my time in my own way, in which case, I will not be able to attend the meeting."

30. You're invited to a friend's annual spring potluck. For the past two years, you've been asked to bring the cheese platter, which costs a fortune, while another friend steps out of her Audi convertible carrying a macaroni salad.
Take the initiative. Say, "This year, I'd prefer to cook," and suggest that you bring your couscous salad.

When you've already said yes: the backtracking no

31. You said yes, but now you regret it.
You can back out by being straightforward. Explain why you agreed at first, then why you changed your mind. "You know, I really thought that I could attend two parties in one night, but I realize that it won't be much fun to race from one to another. Can we get together next week for a drink?"

You have to turn down a social engagement.

32. To a friend who invites you to a party: "I know you were counting on me to be there, and I hate to disappoint you, but I need a break. Could we reschedule for a time that would work for both of us?"

33. To your high school friends who are planning a birthday get- together: "I'm sorry, but I have a family celebration that night. Can we get together for brunch the next day?

34. To your grandmother, when she asks you to join her at midnight mass: "Grandma, I know that midnight mass is important to you, but I prefer not to stay up so late so that I can truly enjoy the family Christmas party on the 25th."

35. To colleagues who ask you to join them for after-work drinks: "I'm sorry, but I'm already overbooked this month and can't add any more events to my schedule."

Sometimes it's not just about saying no, it's about the whole process of setting and maintaining boundaries. So keep reading for more great info!

This story was originally titled "Be Kind But Decline" in the May 2013 issue.

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35 ways to say no