Workplace Communication

39 Ways to Say "No" Without Sounding Like a Jerk

39 Ways to Say "No" Without Sounding Like a Jerk

learn to say no adviceIt’s so ironic that one of the shortest words in the English language, “no” – just two letters and one little syllable, can cause so many people so much trouble!

That being said, I understand the simple act of flat out saying, “NO,” to another person carries with it a lot of emotional baggage both for the sender of the message and the receiver.

Over the years, I’ve written many articles and blog posts about saying no, including “Three Reasons You Must Learn to Say No”, in April 2015, and  “Just Say No: Five Steps to Say No and Make It Stick”, in August 2014. However, I still get asked, at least once a week, exactly HOW people can say no in a way that doesn’t make them sound like a non-cooperative jerk.


Here are 39 ways to say “no” that soften the blow of rejection for the receiver and make it easier for the sender to deliver the message.

  1. No, thank you.
  2. No thank you, but you have a great time!
  3. I’m sorry, I can’t.
  4. Maybe next time.
  5. Not this time.
  6. Not now.
  7. I won’t be able to help.
  8. I’m honored you asked me. However, I can’t.
  9. I wish I could, but I’m maxed out right now.
  10. I wish I could make it work.
  11. I just can’t make it work.
  12. It just won’t work right now.
  13. Unfortunately, it’s not a good time.
  14. I’m disappointed, but I’m just not able to fit it in my schedule right now.
  15. My apologies, but I can’t.
  16. Thank you, but I have another commitment.
  17. Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t.
  18. I’ll have to take a rain check.
  19. If I could clone myself, I would.
  20. I appreciate you asking, but I don’t care for (opera, blowfish, cage fighting, etc.)
  21. Thanks, but I’m not interested.
  22. I’m just not the best person to help you with that.
  23. That’s not in my skill set.
  24. I’m not the best fit for this.
  25. I’m just not the person you’re looking for.
  26. I can’t, but let me see if (another person) can help.
  27. The demands would just be too much for me right now.
  28. That’s not one of my strengths. I hope you find someone who can help.
  29. Thank you for asking, but that’s not going to work for me.
  30. Thank you for asking, but I have a scheduling conflict then.
  31. I wish I could, but I just don’t have the time right now.
  32. I just have to prioritize other things right now.
  33. I have to limit my commitments right now.
  34. I’m just not able to commit right now.
  35. I just won’t be able to give it the time needed.
  36. I just couldn’t give your _____ the time and energy you need.
  37. If I said yes, you’d be disappointed in me, so I’ll have to decline.
  38. I’m sorry, but I have to decline.
  39. For now, I’ll have to decline.

Feel free to combine or edit any of the phrases to make them fit your needs. Want to help get this list to 50 ways to say “no” nicely? Comment to add to my list!

Amy Castro is a workplace communication expert, speaker, trainer, and writer of  The Performance Communication Blog. She also authored the book, Practical Communication- 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done.

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Comments (4)

  1. Beverly Baldwin
    03:46 am

    I’ve been trying to develop my ability in that area, and wouldn’t feel comfortable handling that project until I’m more confident in my ———- skills. Thanks for thinking of me though!

    1. 21:19 pm

      Good one!

  2. Beverly Baldwin
    03:38 am

    Thanks so much for considering me for that project, but I’m really maxed out right now.

    1. 21:20 pm

      Another good one!

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