5 Polite Ways to Say “No”

Today’s culture does not like the word, “No.” If you’re like me, when you turn down an offer to hang out, grab lunch, or make plans, you feel required to give an explanation as to why.

“I’m sorry, I can’t this weekend because I’m booked.”

“Wish I could, but you know how life is — always busy!”

“I can try to make it happen, but it’ll be between other commitments, so we’ll have to keep it short.” (A hint that I’d rather not but I don’t know how to say so.)

Sound Familiar?

If so, keep reading.

The truth is, we don’t owe an apology or explanation to anyone when we deny an invitation. Every person is allowed to invite others to spend time with them, work on a project for them, or otherwise engage. And every person is also allowed to say, “No, thank you,” and leave it at that. Sometimes having variations of “No, thank you,” is helpful.

So below are five options that I like!

  1. That sounds great. I won’t be able to make it, but appreciate you thinking of me.
  2. I’m flattered you asked me. But I’m at my limit of extracurricular activities and can’t come this time.
  3. I am in a season of slowing down so am not taking on any additional activities or projects.
  4. Thanks for the invite! That project isn’t in my scope or skill set, so I can’t accept your kind offer.
  5. It’s not the right time in my life to take that on, but thanks for thinking of me.

It’s amazing how free I feel after starting to use these. Saying up-front that I simply cannot participate in whatever the person is asking of me allows me to be honest. I don’t have to worry that they’ll respond with, “Well, how about the next weekend? Do you have time then?”

What I need and what I’ve decided to do is out in the open. This kind of honesty frees the person who invites you because they know to look for someone else rather than waiting for you. And it frees you because you don’t have to try to make it work in the future or wonder what your next excuse is.

What about you? How do you say no? Share in the comments below; I’d love to connect with you!

(Big shout out to Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes, and Shauna Niequist’s book, Present Over Perfect — both helped me to understand this idea of setting limits for myself and being honest about what I need. They even include examples like these on how to practice saying, “no.”)

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