The Freedom To Decline: 6 Simple Ways To Say “No”

sashaNOOn Saturday, I went from being tripled-booked at various events in the city to cozying up solo in my warm bed just after 9pm. I didn’t stay in that night for lack of things to do, or friends to do them with. I also failed to give each party a heads up that I wasn’t going to show.

Terrible, I know.

It was just one of those moments where my mind and body were crying out that I needed to slow down, just a tad.

I may not have spoken the words as I should have, but my actions clearly stated, “No.” Often known for overextending and burning out, I’m doing my best to get a hold of the fear of “missing out” that keeps me from saying no consistently. I must say it more often. But, I find it so difficult. And I am always trying to be nice to others at the expense of myself.

I have, however, come a long way.

There used to be a time when I would get requests for help, and attend to them even though I had important work to do. Sometimes the requests would drag 2-3 hours or even beyond. At the end of the day, or the beginning of the next, I would forgo sleep to catch up on my work. I often treated invites the same way. Once upon a time, you could absolutely, positively count on me to RSVP “Yes” to your event. Even after having children, I was still trying to do this. Was I crazy? Of course, I failed miserably at many attempts to live the socialite life. And after a while, I realized all these instances of not saying, “No” (when I should have) were not helping me at all. I was spending a lot of time and energy for other people. The most frustrating part was that I brought it upon myself.

So, to recap:

  • I wasn’t being rude
  • I still like you and your company
  • I’ll catch you at the next event (or the one after that…but soon)



  1. “Now’s not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. How about we reconnect at X time?”

Stop dropping everything for one sudden request. This method is a great way to (temporarily) hold off. Let the person know it’s not a good time, as you are busy doing something. But make it known that you want to help by scheduling a later date/time to discuss the request.

  1. “I’d love to do this, but…”

This one’s a gentle way of breaking the “No” to someone, and the one I use most often. It’s rather honest and encouraging, too, and people appreciate that. I sometimes get collaboration ideas from other bloggers – or proposals from other moms for things I can’t participate in. This method lets the person know I think their idea is great, however I can’t take part due to other commitments (#3), for example.

  1. “I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”

If you have too many commitments happening at once, this method will apply. It lets the person know your plate is full, and to try again another time. I find it easier to share what I’m working on so the person can better understand.

  1. “Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.”

Such a biggie! I would often fall into the trap of overcommitting myself, because I would hit reply really quickly on the email or answer the text right away. The most I’d do was check my calendar and if there was nothing in that space, at that time, I’d consider it a go. Remember to take a step back and think first about the things you commit to. It will decrease your chances of cancelling later on – and perhaps even upsetting people you care about.

  1. “I’m not the best person to help with this. Why don’t you try X?”

If you’re being asked for help with something you can’t contribute much to – or simply don’t have the resources to help with, let it be known that they are asking the wrong person. I always make it a point to offer an alternate contact so the person isn’t left hanging.

  1. “No, I can’t.”

This is the most simple, direct way to decline. Just say it outright. You’ll be surprised when the reception isn’t half as bad as what you imagined it to be.


  1. nicole · October 27, 2014

    i use #6 all the time… but i’ll add a 😦 (a sad face) to let them know i’m bummed. that, i’m sure helps immensely!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Constance Jones (@ConstanceJones) · October 28, 2014

    YES YES YES– I have to learn how to say NO! Great tips.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aileen @NewsyParents · October 28, 2014

    Great tips! I hate saying no for fear of disappointing people. I usually only decline when I’ve committed myself to another event as in the case of #4. Need to be better about this. Thanks for the suggestions!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mommyinsports · November 3, 2014

    THIS! I love this – SUCH good advice! Sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Shavon Brown-Robinson · November 4, 2014

    I’m terrible at saying no so I over commit and then burn out. It’s my promise to myself to remember my limits.


  6. T · February 12, 2015

    Oh man, I can so relate this post. Although I too am getting better at saying no and learning to put myself first (not an easy task as a mom, amiright?), I struggle with feeling like I need to always justify the nos when sometimes the only justification is that you just don’t feel like doing x,y,z at this present time. We over complicate our lives sometimes by people pleasing.

    Liked by 1 person

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