Saying "no" is an important part of ensuring you feel comfortable throughout your career. There may be times when your employer or colleague asks you to do something you truly do not want to do. Although being agreeable is an important part of being a team player, there are many times when it's best to stand up for yourself and say "no." In this article, we discuss how to nicely say "no" and provide examples that you can use.
Related: Tips for How to Be Assertive at Work
Why it's important to know how to nicely say "no"
Knowing how to nicely say "no" is an important part of asserting yourself and setting boundaries. When you constantly say "yes" to things you don't want to do, you may find yourself in challenging situations. When saying "no," there are plenty of ways to reframe your decision in a polite manner. By coming off professionally, your coworkers or employer may respect your decision and have a better understanding of your reasoning. As an employee, you have the agency to say "no," but knowing how to do so nicely can make it much easier to do.
How to nicely say "no"
Following these steps can help you feel more confident and professional when you want to say "no":
1. Be straightforward
Instead of saying "maybe" or "I don't think so," be straightforward in your answer. Make sure whoever is asking you the question understands that you mean no now and forever. When you say things like, "maybe later" or "some other time" you should mean what you are saying. Otherwise, these types of in-between answers may prompt the person to ask you the question another time.
2. Briefly explain yourself
It's polite to give a brief explanation of why you are saying "no." This can help soften your answer and help the person understand why you decline. When giving your explanation, keep it short. It's not your responsibility to give a lengthy explanation with all of the details. After a sentence or two, the other person should be understanding of your decision. Rather than fabricating an intricate reason why you're saying "no," keep it simple and courteous.
3. Bring up an alternative
If you want to be seen as a team player at work, offer an alternative when you say "no." For example, if your coworker asks for your help but you're too busy, you could say, "Sorry, no. I'm really busy with my own tasks right now. If you still need help by the end of the week, please let me know. I can offer my help then." This shows that you want to be agreeable and helpful while also respecting your own boundaries.
The same is true if you're invited to an after-work event but feel too tired to go this time. You can politely decline by saying, "It's been a hectic week for me, and I need some time to relax. Can we reschedule for next Monday?" When you set these clear boundaries, people learn to respect your needs. Everyone can understand that you need some time for yourself, and creating this precedent upfront makes it easier to say "no" in the future.
4. Keep your stance
After you say "no," keep that as your final answer. By giving in and changing your answer to "yes," people may be able to get you to eventually agree to things you don't want to do. By staying firm on your answer, your coworkers and employer will understand they can't persuade you any further. It's okay to feel confident about your decision and be in charge of your own life.
50 ways to nicely say "no"
Having the ability to say "no" at work can allow you to be more in charge of your career. Use these examples to politely say "no" to your employer and coworkers:
- "Unfortunately, I have too much to do today. I can help you another time."
- "I'm flattered by your offer, but no thank you."
- "That sounds fun, but I have a lot going on at home."
- "I'm not comfortable doing that task. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
- "Now isn't a good time for me. I'll let you know if my schedule frees up."
- " Sorry, I have already committed to something else. I hope you understand."
- "No, I won't be able to fit that into my schedule this week."
- "I would love to join you, but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with work right now."
- "I'm not taking on any other work right now. Maybe check with another department?"
- "Thank you for thinking of me, but I do not wish to accept your offer."
- "Sadly, I cannot help with that. I'm not qualified for that type of work."
- "The timing right now isn't good. Can you keep me in mind for next time?
- "How about you try it on your own first, and then I can help you?"
- "I know this isn't the answer you wanted, but I cannot accept your offer."
- "I enjoyed helping you last time, but I am too busy to assist you right now."
- "Thanks, but I'm all good. I appreciate the offer."
- "I'm not interested this time. I'm sure someone else would love the opportunity."
- "No, sorry. I need to prioritize my family right now."
- "I've been feeling too busy at work lately. I will have to decline this time."
- "I've had a negative experience with that before, so I'll have to decline."
- "I've done that a million times before. Let's give someone else a chance to try."
- "I feel honored by you asking me this question, but I still have to say 'no' this time."
- "How thoughtful of you. I appreciate your offer, but this time I'm simply too busy with work."
- "I'm not the right fit for this task. I can help you think of someone else to ask."
- "Unfortunately, that's just not possible. It won't work out this time."
- "That sounds so exciting, but we'll have to wait for another time."
- "Are you sure you want me to do that? I would rather not, but I appreciate you asking."
- "That's not the right choice for you, let's look at this one instead."
- "I really shouldn't this time, but thank you."
- "Let me get back to you, but I'm not confident about it working out."
- "This task doesn't align with my own principles. Could we change what I need to do?"
- "I told myself I wouldn't do that again. Thanks for respecting my decision."
- "No, thank you. I would appreciate it if you accepted my choice."
- "I know that's challenging for you, but I don't have the capacity to help you at the moment."
- "I can't help, but I have some resources I can forward to you."
- "Out of respect to my privacy, I hope you can understand my answer is no."
- "I've been spending too much money lately, can I join you after our next paycheck?"
- "I'm low on cash right now. Can we do something that's free?"
- "I would love to help, but I have too much going on. Best of luck with your endeavors."
- "I've actually changed my mind. I no longer can help you. Sorry for the inconvenience this may cause."
- "Unfortunately, I cannot say 'yes' this time. I wish you luck in finding someone who can."
- "I don't feel comfortable with you asking me that. Can you please refrain from doing so in the future?"
- "How about instead of me doing that, I help you with something else?"
- "This deal doesn't feel right to me. I'm going to have to decline this time."
- "This doesn't seem like a healthy decision for me. I will have to regretfully decline."
- "Agreeing to this would go against what I believe in. Thank you for being understanding of that."
- "I can't because my own team needs me."
- "I'm afraid I can't. Let's discuss this another time."
- "I'm going to pass this time. Perhaps we can discuss this again next month."
- "This doesn't fall under my job description. Please refer to our manager to learn who to ask."