The Power of The Word No and 10 Ways To Say It


The word “No” is considered the 77th most frequently spoken word in the English language. And yet, so many struggle to make it a regular vocabulary term when they need to the most. There is significant pressure in our fast-past society to do more, for more, more often. We experience heavy weights of guilt or fear that we will be punished if we say no. Somehow, saying yes to the demands of others has become our ticket to acceptance and being liked. And we are too afraid to find out what happens if we say “no.”

This is particularly true for women. Even with the advances of gender equality, we must confess that we still live in a fiercely male-dominated world. A world in which women are taught that they are more attractive if they are agreeable, compliant, and willing. But, there is no reason to fear the aftermath of “no.”

Here is what will happen:

You will quickly discover who is here to give to you just as much as they take and who is simply here to take as much as you are willing to give. Some friends, loved ones, or random acquaintances along the way may be lost. You may find your social circle shrinks little by little with each “no” you put out into the universe. And yes, it is very possible that your ticket to acceptance and being liked may be revoked. However, that was a cheap ticket anyway and could too-easily be replaced.

By learning to say no, you will teach others to love and accept you for your intrinsic value, not your track record of “yes.” You will find yourself surrounded by people that genuinely care for you because of what you have to offer as opposed to how easily you can be controlled.

If you need some assistance getting started, here are a few perfectly respectable ways to tell someone “no.”

  1. I’m not comfortable doing that.
    *This is the holy grail of request declining. Simple. Declarative. And leaves no room for potential
    renegotiation. It is also applicable to any scenario.
  2. I am sorry I cannot do that, but I would love to help. Here is what I can offer instead…
  3. Thank you for the invite, but I have other responsibilities that I must prioritize.
    *This is an excellent option if you want to avoid an invite being rescheduled or you don’t want
    to accept the invitation…ever. This is your get-out-of-jail-free card that doesn’t expire.
  4. I’m flattered you thought of me, but I am not interested.
  5. That sounds like a difficult situation and I hope you are able to find a resolution, but I cannot be
    of assistance.
  6. I do not believe I am the best person to help with this.
  7. That is asking more of me than I can offer right now.
  8. Doing so would cause too much FILL IN THE BLANK (financial, emotional, physical) strain on
  9. I must decline. I hope you understand.
    *They may not understand. And that is perfectly acceptable. Their understanding of your
    decision or lack thereof does not need to change it.
  10. No, THANK YOU.
    *An obvious choice, but it is a complete sentence. And polite.

Written by: Aubrey Koel, LCPC