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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

How to Say No to Annoying Things in Your Life (Without Feeling Like Everyone’s Going to Hate You)

From school bake sales to unwanted projects at work, here's how to keep your "no" short and sweet with zero guilt.

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Gloria Tebelman/

Say no: Politely decline

This one is genius. He’s asking the favor, but you thank him for thinking of you as you firmly close the door. It works with just about any kind of request, and the asker rarely knows how to respond—hence, no push back!

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Gloria Tebelman/

Say no: Suggest a smaller commitment

Here you’re making it crystal clear that you aren’t available for the task being pressed upon you, but you’re not completely blowing off the person in need either. No one can hate you when you’re offering to lend a hand elsewhere.

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Gloria Tebelman/

Say no: Make it about your schedule

This is code for “I do not have room in my life for it, and if I took it on, not only would it not get done, but I’d probably end up going postal over it.” It’s as much about leveling with yourself as it is with the person asking.

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Gloria Tebelman/

Say no: Make it about yourself

We’ve all heard this one before. But a time-honored rejection can still be genuine if you first compliment the asker or subject of the question, and then emphasize that it’s not the right fit or that you don’t have time in your schedule.

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Gloria Tebelman/

Say no: Leave the door open

Here you are genuinely interested in keeping this option open to revisit when you have more time, but it lets you prioritize other things first. Plus, it puts the onus on you to reach out again, meaning you won’t be pummeled with persistent nagging from the asker.

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Gloria Tebelman/

Say no: Volunteer someone else

This is a solid no, with a generous side of helpfulness. And think of all the wonderful folks you can recommend in your place! (If it’s a particularly onerous chore, be sure to suggest your meddlesome neighbor.)

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Gloria Tebelman/

Say no: Include your opinion

Sometimes it’s all right to use your no to set the record straight about your position, especially when the request goes against your values. “I’m afraid I don’t support that cause/candidate/organization.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest