How to Say No Respectfully

Turning down any friendly request or gesture can take nerve, but at times often necessary. When you can't or don't want to do something, get yourself together and kindly but firmly turn them down. But if you're not ready, you're simply not ready.


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    Listen to the request respectfully. Do not interrupt the speaker.
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    Phrase your "no" as simply as possible. Don't raise your voice or become upset, simply say that you cannot help this time. When you say no, say it in a confident, well modulated voice to sound more straightforward.
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    Transfer ownership of your refusal to something else. For instance, say "I can, but my schedule is booked now. How about some other time?" You don't have to explain further. This deflects any resentment they might have towards your schedule.
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    Try to remain non-confrontational.
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    Don't feel obligated to explain. You have your reasons and they may not be ones you wish to discuss. If this is the case, try saying something like, "I'm just not able to." Leave it at that - if you must, change the subject, or say, "I'm sorry, but I need to go."
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    Explain simply, and only if you wish to do so. If the case really is one that you feel okay explaining, make your explanation as simple as possible.
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    Stand firm. If the requester does not want to accept your answer, tell him or her that your mind is made up and that you will not change it.
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    Keep in mind that it's your time they're are requesting for and you have the choice to accept or decline what they're asking of you.


  • Don't be afraid to say no.
  • Practice saying it in the mirror sometimes if you really have a bad habit of not speaking your mind and are unable to say the word, "No".
  • Do not lie when you explain why your answer is no. For example, if you do not want to have your sister and brother-in-law stay at your house for the weekend because they are inconsiderate slobs, do not tell them that you will be fumigating the house. Instead, try, "This weekend isn't a good time for us to have stay-over guests." If they press, say, "We have a lot of shopping and cleaning to do to prepare for this next week, and we won't do it if we have company." Hopefully, that will end the discussion. And frankly, that's probably the truth, isn't it?
  • This approach can be used for salespeople as well as friends. Telemarketers are human too.
  • Preface your 'NO' by saying 'I understand what you are saying' before refusing - it helps if people feel empathy.
  • Be respectful, even if the person asking isn't because two wrongs don't make a right!
  • Say "No, but thank you for the offer."
  • If your refusal upsets someone, remain calm and, if possible, remove yourself from the situation. If you are unable to do so, change the subject or compliment them somehow.
  • Preferably it is in respect to refuse someone one on one, but if you possibly feel uncomfortable you should have a third party near by with knowledge of what's going on to go to afterwards.
  • Smile when you say no.


  • If you feel you are at risk of physical harm, alert a third party as quickly as possible. If you can, call the local emergency number (usually one of the following: 911, 999, 000, or 112).

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Categories: Manners