63 Ways to Say No in Basically Any SituationYou deserve more than going through life just trying to make other people feel comfortable.
Ready for some nightmare fuel? Your bestie invites you to go out this weekend and promises to keep it chill even though, historically, the night always devolves into drama (and stupidly $$ drinks). And that is not what you had in mind for Friday at 11 p.m. after a long week. But when you try to think of how to say no, you feel like SpongeBob in that episode where he’s frantically scouring the metaphorical file cabinets in his mind. Yeah, you could say, “Thanks, but I can’t!” but more often than not it comes out as, “OK! Sure!”
Struggling to say no can often stem from chronic people pleasing (aka, putting everyone’s wants and needs before your own) or just hating confrontation. And, if you’re from certain cultures, people might even expect you to go along with the okie doke because they think you’re submissive or that you were taught to please others. Sometimes, internalizing ideas about your unique cultural makeup and/or gender might also make you feel like opting out means you’ll be seen as difficult, demanding, or even aggressive.
Aside from cultural and social pressures, those two little letters come with a lot of baggage, consequences, and anxiety. Even in low-stakes situations, saying no or canceling plans can trigger a mental spiral of worst-case scenarios. Like, if you don’t go out this one time, then you’ll have intense FOMO followed by never being invited anywhere ever again, which will lead to not having any friends, and you’ll die alone and lonely watching Gilmore Girls.
And when more could be on the line—like your job or your safety—it can make saying no even harder. Turning down extra work when you don’t have the time or energy may not feel like an option—even if your boss is usually the most understanding human on the planet. And, of course, there’s the random moments when people you don’t know want something from you, and you feel too awkward or even too scared to say, “Back TF off, my dude.” In those cases (and lots of others, TBH) saying no isn’t easy, but that’s when figuring out how to say it can matter most.
Because every situation demands a little nuance (like tone adjustments that suit your personality) and can depend on what you’re being asked and how high the stakes are (see: number 43), here’s a bunch of ways you can say nope. From a really good excuse to a professional way to decline that assignment, with these in your back pocket you’ll be prepared to avoid saying, “Sure, I guess,” yet again.
When the stakes are low
Luckily, this can be pretty chill, especially if you’re talking to someone you’re close with. When you’re not really worried about hurting someone’s feelings or souring a relationship, give one of these responses a shot. They’ll definitely understand.
1. My mom says I can’t (nevermind that I’m a grown adult).
2. My therapy homework is to say no more often. So…no.
3. I don’t see that in my future.
4. I gotta put me first, Lucious.
5. I ordered the ribs/an appetizer sampler platter/a Gilmore Girls-level feast, so I’m committed to my couch for the foreseeable future.
6. Thank you so much for the invite! I'm bummed I can't make it, but can we please catch up soon?
7. Let’s not and say we did.
8. I told my cats we'd watch bird TV together. Sorry!
9. I lost my keys and am stuck at home.
10. I’m 30 episodes behind on Love Island.
11. I have a date later (read: me on my couch watching Netflix till 2 a.m.)
12. My pants are off, and my pimple patches are on for the night.
13. “A lot going on at the moment” —Taylor Swift and also me.
14. I can’t go out. *Cough. Cough.* I’m sick.
15. I've already mentally and emotionally and spiritually committed to being on my couch for the next four hours.
16. I’m actually highly allergic to ax throwing (also escape rooms, 5Ks, state fairs, and any other awkward group activity).
17. I just have a lot of TikToks to catch up on. I’m sure you get it.
18. My fainting couch arrived, and I’ve been meaning to test it out.
19. Ugh, I would love to, but I socialed yesterday, so I have to introvert today.
20. I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me. (Best if written on a sticky note.)
21. Can’t. I’m bed rotting.
22. I love this for you! Have fun!
24. Honestly, just send this video. No added commentary necessary.
25. During this retrograde? No way. / My horoscope says that’s not a good idea.
27. The handyman is coming by anywhere from 8 a.m. today to 7 p.m. next week, so I have to stay home just in case.
28. I honestly think this would ruin our relationship.
29. I wish I could, but my boss sucks!
30. I don’t go out unless the temperature meets my ideal 65-78 degree range.
31. My peace shall remain protected this eve.
33. Sorry, I’m not emotionally available right now.
34. I have already mentally removed myself from this situation.
When the stakes are kinda high
If you’re responding to a more serious request—like a destination wedding, a new responsibility at work, or finally catching up with your friend who you haven’t seen in months—you’ll obviously want something a little more sincere. Bookend these with, “I’m sorry!” as needed.
35. I have a ton of deadlines coming up.
36. My wallet has been begging me to chill for too long, so I have to sit this one out.
37. I’m sorry I can’t make it, but I really appreciate you including me!
38. I’ll have to revisit this another time.
39. I can’t make that financial commitment right now.
40. That’s not really aligned with my goals.
41. I wish I could, but I’m really tired/sad/stressed/hungry/cold and am not feeling up to it.
42. That idea makes me uncomfortable, and I appreciate you not trying to convince me otherwise.
43. I really have to catch up on my sleep after a few tough weeks.
44. No, but thank you!
When you’re talking to a rando
Have you ever wanted to say, “No” to some stranger you just met and immediately froze up? Well, to avoid making a habit of that, remember these quick responses so you can make a quick exit.
45. Sorry, I have a significant other. (Even if you don’t!)
46. I really wish I could sign the petition you gave me zero context for, but I’m late for a meeting!
47. Uh uh. Get somebody else to do it.
48. I wish I could, but I can’t right now.
49. My name is no. My sign is no. My number is no.
50. Literally leave me alone.
51. No, kind stranger, I do not want that “friendship bracelet.”
52. No, but good luck. / No, but I wish you the best!
53. No. (End of sentence.)
When you’re using your professional voice
Yeah, you might be able to borrow some of the low stakes or high stakes lines to use in the workplace, depending on how much your peers or managers get you, but these are dedicated to anyone who needs that extra dash of formality for work-specific responses.
55. I don’t think this opportunity is the right one for me at this moment, but thank you for thinking of me.
56. You come to me, on the day of my PTO, asking about emails??
57. I don’t have the capacity to attend to this right now.
58. I’m flattered by the additional responsibility/offer, but unless this comes with the appropriate pay, I have to respectfully decline.
59. Thanks for your email! My assistant will get back to you at their earliest convenience.
60. My plate is full right now. Do you have a preference for which tasks I prioritize?
61. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make everything happen in a timely manner while maintaining company standards, and I want to ensure my output continues to meet expectations.
62. I don’t feel comfortable taking on that project without more experience or oversight.
63. It’s 5 p.m. on a Friday. Would it be more helpful to discuss this on Monday?
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