Say "No" to requests that don't serve you well


  1. Examine your beliefs about saying "No."
    Before attempting to change your behavior, reflect on what you believe will happen when you say no. Do you fear alienation, confrontation, or appearing rude? Assess these beliefs and remind yourself that saying no is a normal and healthy part of communication. Reflecting on this can help you feel more comfortable with setting boundaries.
  2. Replace "I can't" with "I don't."
    Practice saying "I don't" instead of "I can't" to assert your boundaries more firmly. For example, if someone asks you to participate in an activity you're trying to avoid, say, "I don't go to bars anymore," rather than, "I can't go to bars." This small change empowers you to feel more in control of your choices.
  3. Establish your non-negotiable policies.
    Identify categories of requests you typically want to refuse and create policies for them. For instance, if you often get asked to lend money and feel uncomfortable doing so, decide on a policy like, "I don't lend money to friends." Communicating this policy when asked can make it easier to decline such requests consistently.
  4. Simplify your refusals.
    When saying "No" to a request, keep it simple and straightforward. You don't need to provide a lengthy explanation. A simple "No, I can't commit to that right now" is sufficient. Resist the urge to justify your refusal with detailed reasons, as it can invite further persuasion.
  5. Create hoops for requesters.
    When you're unsure about a request or don't want to outright refuse, ask the requester to provide more information or fulfill a condition first. For instance, if someone asks for your time, request a detailed agenda of what they want to discuss first. This often discourages casual requests and gives you time to consider your response.
  6. Offer alternatives when appropriate.
    If you want to decline a request but still want to offer some form of help, propose a less demanding alternative. For example, if you can't dedicate a day to helping someone move, offer to help for a couple of hours instead.
  7. Pass the request when needed.
    If you're not the right person for a request or know someone better suited, suggest that the requester approach them instead. This method allows you to help by redirecting them to a more appropriate solution without taking on the task yourself.
  8. Keep everything non-personal. Focus on the situation, not the person, when saying no. Explain that it's not the individual you're refusing, but the specific request doesn't fit your current circumstances. This approach can minimize feelings of personal rejection on both sides.


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