50 Ways to Say No

I’m learning to say no. Heck, anyone who’s word of the year is REST better start getting better at it, right? In attempts to practice my NO muscle, I pulled together a list of 50 ways to go about saying the dirty word. The important part about NO?

It should be: truthful, firm, and not overly apologetic or explanatory (my particular weakness).

Here goes…

50 Ways to Say No



No thanks, I won’t be able to make it.

Not this time.

No thanks, I have another commitment.

Unfortunately, it’s not a good time.

Sadly I have something else.

Unfortunately not.

I have something else. Sorry.

Apologies, but I can’t make it.

Maybe another time.

Sounds great, but I can’t commit. 

I’m booked into something else.

I’m not able to make that time.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I’m not able to make it this week/month/year.

I’ve got too much on my plate right now.

I’m not taking on anything else right now.

Bandwidth is low, so I won’t be able to make it work.

I wish I could make it work.

Not possible.

I wish I were able to.

If only I could!

I’d love to — but can’t.

Darn! Not able to fit it in.


Rats! Would’ve loved to.

I’m slammed.

Perhaps next season when things clear up.

I’m at the end of my rope right now so have to take a raincheck.

If only it worked.

I’ll need to bow out.

I’m going to have to exert my NO muscle on this one.

I’m taking some time.

Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t.

I’m in a season of NO.

I’m not the girl for you on this one.

I’m learning to limit my commitments.

I’m not taking on new things.

Another time might work.

It doesn’t sound like the right fit.

My word of the year is REST, so I can’t fit another thing in.

I’m not sure I’m the best for it.

No thank you, but it sounds lovely.

It sounds like you’re looking for something I’m not able to give right now.

I believe I wouldn’t fit the bill, sorry.

It’s not a good idea for me.

Not now.

I’m trying to cut back.

I won’t be able to help.

If only I had a clone!

I’m not able to set aside the time needed.

I won’t be able to dedicate the time I need to it.

I’m head-down right now on a project, so won’t be able to.

I wish there were two of me!

I’m honored, but can’t.



Was that 50? I hope so. Can you think of any good ones I missed? We’re going for: truthful, not overly explanatory, and firm.



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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47 thoughts on “50 Ways to Say No

  1. If only it were that simple. In the movie Godfather, the protagonist says it’s very difficult to say no to people you love. Food for thought there.

  2. Great list! Thank you. I like “This isn’t aligned with my top priorities right now.” No is a complete sentence. No means saying yes to my deeper YES!

  3. I’m booked this lifetime.
    I’ve just been called to jury duty.
    I have to be in court as a witness to a (car wreck, hit and run, false imprisonment…)
    My calendar is full until February 2016, no kidding. (Use your own date.)
    I’d like to and I would, but my aunt needs 24-hour in-home care, and I am the only nearby relative.
    I would but only if the swelling goes down.
    I have just been promoted to a job that I am completely unqualified for, so my next three months will be in training.

  4. I’d love to email this to my son, but don’t see a way to. Guess I can copy and paste the URL for him. Very useful!

  5. Now it seems to be effective way to say no but I have one another.

    “My word of the year is NO, so I can’t.”

    Jokes apart, I always find myself in a difficult situation when I want to say No to anyone. Hope these 50 ways works for me.

  6. 1st & 50th is the same!!!!!!!!!!!

    Actualy there is only 49 then… NO is writen 2 times, so i does not count 1 time!!!!

    U want to trick us…

  7. You can cheat anybody on this earth but not to one person .and that person is your best friend who never step away from you when you are in trouble. He celebrate with you. He drink with you .He eat with you. He sleep with you. He dance with you. He cried with you .he laugh with you .He is YOU.
    In General we all lived in non hostile worlds. We are all hypocrites. We say something we do something else. We are expert actors on the stage of world Drama. We can not always find yes man in all our subordinates and in our superiors. But when we want to say no ,Most of us feel guilty or not able to dare to say no .But in fact before saying no to the others we must make our first move to form a habit to say no to you no to self. It is only happen when First we should know our self. To know yourself you need to ask some questions from you

    • Who I am ?
    • With whom I am dealing ?
    • Where from i came ?
    • What is the motive in my life?
    • Why I want to lie ?
    • What are my values?
    • What are my belief?
    • What I want from life?
    • What are my strong points ?
    • What are my negative points ?
    • What is the area of me which need extra efforts ?

    Have an ENCOUNTER with you
    What my goals ?
    What are my plan of actions?
    What will be the outcome of my actions ?

    Sometimes, saying no to yourself is harder than saying it to others. You might feel that you ‘owe it to yourself’ or ‘Why not’, or some other excuse. This can lead to spending way too much money, too much weight and having just too much stuff in your house

  8. Mt Dad would say “it is not in the cards” a firm way of saying no without allowing me an opportunity to challenge his reasons for his no answer. After all who am I to argue with the cards. If I had been thinking I should have asked him. Whose cards are we using or some other challenging reply, but it avoided many arguments.

  9. Hell No!
    Not in this life time!
    No, never.
    Not even a little maybe….
    never going to happen!
    That’s a big negative sir.
    not likely
    not a chance
    uh uh.
    No way!
    Just some a fella has heard over the years!

  10. I think I’ll print up your list and keep it handy. The next time I need to say no, I’ll just hand them my list and let them pick one.

  11. Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I in finding It
    really helpful & it helped me out much. I’m hoping to provide one thing back and help others like you aided me.

  12. When the telemarketers call I say I am the babysitter and can’t have no idea what they are talking about. Sometimes it works, other times they see right through it so them I hang up. I also use “that’s not in my wheel-house” to say no. Great list. We all need these ways to say no if we are going to make time for FUN.

  13. PS. I just used NO with a telemarketer who rang and was pushy and asked if they could ring back at another time more convenient. I always used to guiltily say, ‘oh, alright’. This time I said, ‘No, I’d rather you didn’t, but thanks anyway’. Not often you can render a telemarketer speechless, huh? 🙂

  14. I’ve become really good at saying, ‘No, sorry, that’s not really my thing’ – especially in blogging. Before I might wheedle or not want to be upfront or make an excuse but now I’m just direct about it. Big time-saver. And surprisingly, doesn’t piss people off because they know exactly where they stand from the get-go.

    Also, not QUITE a no but another great thing in regards to taking on work (I’m a writer and work for myself) is the ‘Can I get back to you on that’ to give myself time to weigh up whether it’s a no rather than just reacting by being put on the spot all the time. I used to say yes to everything then end up feeling like I was taking crazy pills because I had too much on and should’ve just worked out my schedule and figured out it just wasn’t doable. If I, like, wanted to sleep and enjoy some semblance of a weekend and have dinner not at my desk occasionally.

    Embrace the season of NO!

  15. Sorry to rain on your parade, but hey, you set the parameters, and good parameters they were too:
    “It should be: truthful, firm, and not overly apologetic or explanatory”
    How many of the phrases on this list meet this test?
    About three. The first three. After that we slide off into the ghastly weasel-words that permeate our society.
    I seem to remember someone very wise saying “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”.
    To quote that great philosopher, Maxwell Smart: “Sorry about that, Chief”.

    • I love your answer. I was about to say almost the same, when your answer caught my attention. Point on! The honest answer is YES or NO, all the rest can be useful or useless embellishments as to describe the motives behind the answer if there are any. And why NO needs so much syrup or fog around it? While on the other side YES is not offered with so many side dishes to describe the motivation of the answer. To be fair I would like to see a list with equally many ways to say YES and justify it. I doubt if it can be provided. Isn’t that so?

  16. Great list. Here’s a couple more…

    “Thank you so much for asking. Can you keep me on your list for next year?”
    “I’m flattered you considered me, but unfortunately I’ll have to pass this time.”

    And my favorite, “Oh I wish I could…but you know, I bet Claire could help you with that”

    • I knew it was worth it to take Spanish in college. That’s an interesting bit of wisdom around growing up. I always thought it was about getting over myself, but perhaps after that there’s a phase of growing into myself all over again.

  17. I started this practise a few years ago. It was a terribly liberating feeling to realize that no explanation was required. Just a very nice, very sincere and simple word that is life-changing!
    Thanks for your great list.

  18. This is a great list, Claire. Authentic is my word of the year, so I have completely removed “Maybe another time” from my vocabulary. I found that what I was saying wasn’t congruent with what I meant. I meant “No, thank you, I’m not interested” and what I was saying was “Ask me again sometime soon.” This just led to a vicious cycle of another “maybe another time…”

    • Cheri, you’re speaking my language. I’m the queen of “maybe next week/month”…and I need to learn to change my ways…

  19. Literally thinking of this on my way home last night, as the impending list of tasks made me feel overwhelmed. I need to say no more. And this is a great way to practice!

  20. Personally, I like “Look! Squirrel!” 🙂
    On a serious note, “No” (and it’s many forms) features frequently in my life these days. My word this year is Intentional: which means not getting roped into things that I feel I ought to do, but only to do the things I know I ought to do, want to do, or both.
    Thank you for the plethora of “No’s” from which to choose.