• Elizabeth Rossi

How to say NO and not sound like an a**hole

Updated: Sep 1

May 1, 2020 As I started thinking about this month’s newsletter, I pondered… why is it hard to say “NO” sometimes? How can we do it better, in a way that leaves everyone feeling okay about it?

I usually say “NO” for one of two reasons… either I’m just not interested or I have another obligation. In either case it can be difficult because I mainly don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, or diminish the relationship — whether it’s personal or professional.


So here are 3 ways to say NO and not sound like an a**hole:

  1. Understand what is being asked, and look for alternates. Sometimes the need is clear; other times it’s not. Either way, ask questions to figure out the true need and see if there are alternate ways you can help. For example, let’s say a friend asks you to help them move on Saturday and you want to say NO for whatever reason — you’re tired, your back hurts, you have plans, whatever. Ask questions to see where they need help the most — maybe they have movers coming, and need help packing boxes, or unpacking boxes, etc. Ask questions and look for alternative ways or times that you do feel comfortable lending a hand. “I don’t think I can help on Saturday… but I’m free Friday to help pack boxes?”

  2. Authentically express yourself, with gratitude. This one can be the hardest sometimes, but honestly is always the best policy. Sometimes we’re flat out not interested in whoever or whatever is being asked. Time is truly the most valuable commodity we have in life, so honor your time and the other persons. Explain that you’re not interested but thank the person for asking and considering you — they thought enough of you to ask, which is a beautiful honor. For example, if someone asks you on a date or for your phone number but you’re not interested… it is kinder to be upfront and let them know, rather than to give them a fake phone number or your real number but then to ‘ghost’ them. “Thank you for asking me, that’s so kind, but I’m sorry I can’t. I’m really flattered though, thank you.” It’s up to you to offer the reason why, if you choose to, but you’re not obligated.

  3. Delay your response. Sometimes people catch us off-guard when then have an ask, and we’re not 100% prepared. In these situations, if you’re leaning towards saying NO, ask the other person when they need an answer. Let them know you’ll get back to them by then. “Let me marinate on this… I’m just not 100% sure. When do you need to know?” The other person then has a warning that you may say no. Then use this time to really decipher how you’re feeling, and think of alternate ways to offer help. If you decide the ask is just not for you, simply message the person back with, “Hey, sorry… I’ve thought about it and I won’t be able to ____. Let me know if there’s another way to help?”

Saying no can be hard, and I hope these techniques will help you in the future. I want to help you express your thoughts and feelings in the best way possible, even in the most difficult of situations. It can be hard to say what’s really on our hearts and minds… maybe out of fear, obligation, hurt or anger.


If you’d like to learn more on how to express yourself and receive 100s of sample scripts and tips on what to say, check out the website and get a copy of The Text Book. Better communication = better relationships!

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