15 Kind Ways to Say No to People and Keep Your Sanity

15 Kind Ways to Say No to People and Keep Your Sanity

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If you struggle to say no to people, you might feel like you’re losing your sanity sometimes. Saying no can be hard to do, but it is well worth it sometimes to save your well-being. However, finding kind ways to say no to people can help make the situation easier for both of you.

Whether a friend is asking a favor or a co-worker wants to switch shifts, you can say no. You can stand your ground while being kind, and then you won’t be left with guilt later on. Plus, when you say no this way, it prevents you from being guilted into doing something you don’t want to do.

Helping others can be a good thing, but only if you’ve put yourself first. You don’t have to say yes to everything asked of you, especially if you’re already too busy. Even if you aren’t too busy, you still have every right to say no to something you don’t want to do.

Use These Fifteen Phrases to Say No to People

You can use your best judgment to determine when you’re needed or not. Putting your well-being should come before helping others with things they could do themselves or ask someone else to do. Use these kind phrases to say no to people and keep your sanity.

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1. This sounds like a great opportunity, but I’ll have to pass at this time.

Saying no in this way is beneficial because it starts with a compliment. If you want to elaborate, you could give specific examples about why it sounds like a great opportunity.

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However, if you don’t want to go into detail, you don’t have to. You can decide what compliment to give and how much to share, or you can use this phrase verbatim. The goal is, to begin with, a positive statement to make the other person feel good even when you say no.

2. I’m super busy right now, but let’s plan for another time.

Don’t be afraid to establish boundaries if you are short on time. When someone asks you to do something that isn’t time-sensitive, this is a thoughtful way to say no. Explain that you are busy, but make sure the other person knows you want to get together.

Let them know that you want to plan for another time. It might help if you set a date or time right then, or you can tell the person you’ll reach out to make plans.

3. Thank you for thinking of me, but I can’t this time.

Stay positive and thank the person for thinking of you, but make it clear that you can’t do it this time. Even if you can’t help, respect the fact that they asked as it shows they view you as responsible and trustworthy. Take their request as a compliment rather than feeling annoyed or obligated.

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4. I’d love to help, but my schedule is full right now.

Don’t complicate the situation as you tell someone no. Let the person know that you’d love to help if you could but that you’re overloaded with tasks. Keep it short and sweet, but stick to the point.

If you give a long explanation, it opens you up to prodding and begging. Don’t put yourself in that position by giving too much explanation. Be polite, but keep the conversation as short as possible.

5. I have an appointment that day, so I’ll have to pass.

If you have a valid reason that the other person can’t try to talk you out of, it might help to explain. If you have a prescheduled appointment, it is the perfect excuse to say no, and most people won’t try to sway you. You don’t have to explain what your appointment is for, allowing you to use it in whatever context you want.

6. I can see that you don’t give up easily, but I’m not changing my mind.

Some people will always try to change your mind when you say no. They might not want to accept your refusal, but you should still stick to your answer. By using this phrase, you keep it lighthearted and polite, but you reaffirm your answer.

If they keep needling, you might have to push back. Don’t give in because then the other person will continue the behavior in the future. You aren’t obligated to help, so don’t give in if they keep asking.

7. Although I can’t spend time with you right now, I’d love to get together soon.

If you have to turn down a request for lunch or a get-together, this is a thoughtful way to refuse. Make sure the other person knows that you’d love to spend time together even if you can’t this time. It’s easier to say no when you follow it with a positive point, such as getting together soon.

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say no to people
8. I wish I could, but I’m busy that day.

While it’s hard to say no to people, you can keep it simple and to the point. Your time is valuable, too, so you can’t always say yes to everything. You aren’t required to give away all of your energy and free time.

Remember that you don’t always have to explain yourself. You can keep it short and avoid sharing details about your plans.

9. I’m spending time with my family that day.

Not many people can argue with you about spending time with your family. They won’t want to interrupt or take away from your family time, so it’s a respectful and kind answer. You don’t have to explain what you’ll be doing with your family, so you can keep it simple.

10. I can’t right now, but maybe I can help out later.

If you’re willing to help the person out at a later time, use this phrase. They might not need help later, but it’s still nice to offer a hand later on. Including the words “right now” gets the point across that you’d like to help but can’t, so it keeps the refusal kind and polite.

11. I’ll think about it and get back to you.

While giving a definite answer is the best option, you might need more time sometimes. By asking for time to think about it, you give yourself a chance to build courage. With courage, you can get back to them a short time later and give them a straightforward and honest answer.

Plus, asking for more time gives you a chance to think about if it’s something you want to do. Either way, don’t wait too long to answer because you don’t want to seem rude. Take the time to think it through and build confidence, and then reach out with an answer as soon as possible.

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12. I’m busy, but if I get some free time, I’ll let you know.

This phase is assertive and polite, making it the perfect way to say no to people. Using firm and definitive words leave no room for negotiation, so the other person likely won’t try to sway you. By explaining that you’ll let them know if you get the time, they’ll leave you alone and maybe move on to someone else.

13. I wish I could, but I have a lot going on right now.

Being straightforward rather than trying to make excuses can make the refusal easier for both of you. If you have a full schedule already, don’t add more to it. Likewise, if you haven’t had time for self-care, you should also turn down any other requests.

Take care of yourself first before considering helping others. Don’t be afraid to say that you already have a lot going on. You shouldn’t feel obligated to over-commit yourself or cause unnecessary stress in your life.

14. Sadly, I don’t have the energy for anything else right now.

When you say no to people, you can use this phrase or add a little more to it. Remember that you can leave your refusal short and sweet, but don’t be afraid to elaborate if you’re comfortable.

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If you’ve worked a double shift or had a late night, you can tell the other person. These are things they’ll likely understand. However, if you aren’t comfortable or would prefer not to share, don’t worry about coming up with a reason for not having the energy.

15. I’m not comfortable with that, but I can help with something else instead.

You might find yourself in a situation where you’re willing and able to help, but not with what you’re asked to do. Don’t be afraid to say you aren’t comfortable doing something and asking for a different task instead. If the person truly needs the help, they’ll quickly offer another suggestion.

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Final Thoughts on Kind Ways to Say No to People and Keep Your Sanity

While many people have a hard time saying no, you are allowed to do it, and you don’t have to feel bad for it. Finding kind ways to say no to people can help make the situation easier, saving you from tension or awkwardness. Setting boundaries and learning to set limits is a key to your sanity. Don’t waste your time or energy doing things that take away from your overall well-being.

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The next time you find yourself asked to do something, remember these kind ways to say no to people. Helping others and being there for them is a gracious act, but you don’t have to say yes each time.

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Sarah Barkley is a lifestyle blogger and freelance writer with a Bachelor's Degree in Literature from Baker College. She is experienced in all things related to parenting, marriage, and life as a millennial parent, but loves to learn new things. She enjoys the research that goes into a strong article, and no topic is off-limits to Sarah. When she isn't writing, she is immersed in a book or watching Gilmore Girls. Sarah loves reading classic novels but also enjoys a good thriller.

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