Saying “no” is something that many of us struggle with. We often feel that others will perceive us as unwilling to participate, disinterested, or uncaring if we say it too often.

We want to help – but we have to set limits.

Despite the bad rap that saying “no” has, it’s an important word and one that many of us need to say more often. With schedules packed to the brim and time spent with family (not to mention time alone!) all-too-often sacrificed at the expense of yet another commitment, being able to turn down requests is an essential and extremely liberating skill to have.

The good news is that you don’t have to feel rude or impolite by saying no. There are plenty of ways that you can turn down requests without having to feel awkward. Learning to say no can be a challenge, but there are ways to make it easier and to help soften the response.

Here are a few ways that you can turn down a request – politely.

1. Don’t Feel Guilty

The first step is to truly understand the reason that you are saying no. This requires you to have a firm understanding of your commitments and priorities. When someone asks you for something, try to think about your current obligations. If your schedule is full and there’s no room for anything else – then don’t feel bad about saying no! Simply give a response that’s along these lines: “I’m sorry, but there’s not much room in my schedule this month. I’m just not able to take anything else on – but thanks for the offer!”

2. Say “Thanks, But No Thanks!”

As shown in the example above, you can always acknowledge the person in question with an expression of gratitude. Leading into your response or closing it out with a “Thank you for thinking of me…” or “I’m honored that you considered me…” are helpful when needing to decline, gently and politely – helping to soften your response.

3. Offer an Alternative

In some cases, offering an alternative to the question being asked is just as helpful as saying yes to begin with. In situations where you know of someone else who could be interested in the task, you could pass this information on. Saying something such as, “Sorry, I’m not taking on projects like this anymore – but I can put you in touch with someone who may be able to help!” can be a great way to answer.

4. Say It Straight

While it’s always nice to soften your response, make sure you’re clear in communicating that you’re unable to take on the task. Don’t leave them hanging or lead them on by letting them think that there’s a slim chance that you can help. Doing so will only cause frustration for them, as well as for yourself. Including a simple, “I’m sorry but I can’t,” in your response, is important.

While it’s vitally important to say no to tasks that you’re unable to commit to – or things that you have no interest in doing, it’s important to keep “yes” a part of your vocabulary as well. Before responding to a request, take a moment to ask yourself if the task that you’re being asked to help with is something that’s important to you or a cause that’s close to your heart. If it is, and if you feel that there is time in your schedule to commit, you can always say, “I need to check my calendar – I’ll get back to you on this one!” If, however, the task is something that you don’t feel comfortable with or don’t have time for – or something that will take away from your commitment to yourself, your family, and your current workload – then give yourself permission to say no. No guilt necessary!

Do you struggle with “no?” How do you turn down requests that you can’t commit to?

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