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5 ways to say ‘No’ without sounding like a jerk

Does saying “no” to someone make you cringe? Do you find yourself feeling guilty because you have to say no? Are you overloading your day because you just can’t seem to say no to your friends, your co-workers, your boss, or even your family? 

As kids, many of us were taught not to say no, to our parents and authority figures. People sometimes believe that saying yes will make them more likable and avoid being seen as lazy or selfish.

But saying no isn’t bad, wrong, or selfish, says Alex Perry, a communication and confidence expert. Saying no is essential; to set boundaries, avoid overdoing, and prevent disappointments.

Alex suggests that saying no is the key to creating more freedom in your life and offers these ways to say no nicely (aka without sounding like a jerk).

1. Sounds great, but I can’t commit.

Sure, you could go to the party; however, you’ve got other things you need and want to accomplish. This phrase works well when you’re asked to attend a party, get-together, or some other social event.

2. I can’t help right now; let me recommend someone who might be able to.  

Do you find yourself as the go to person more often than you’d like? Try this phrase the next time your co-worker or the PTO president asks you to do something that you know you don’t have time to do.

3. My time is already committed.

So, your boss asks you to stay late (again) to work on a project. Here’s a way to say no without saying it directly. From here, you can suggest alternate times or ways to get work done.

4. I’m honored but can’t.

This is a great phrase to use when you’re asked to take on a project, a role, or an assignment that’s a big deal and you know that you don’t have the time (e.g., taking on a new board position, secretary duties at church or you’re asked to attend an event on behalf of your company).

5. No, thank you. 

Direct? Absolutely. Is it necessary? It can be. Sometimes, when you’ve tried less direct ways of saying no, you’ve got to be as clear and as kind as possible. The phrase no thank you is straightforward and polite and can be used for almost any scenario you need or want to say no.

To learn more about how to communicate with confidence, visit