35 ways to say no

Find yourself saying yes to every ask? We'll help you find polite and effective ways to say no.

By Josée Larivée

How to decline kindly
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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 loan...in 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.


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