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The Sacred Art of Nursing

A Mindful Approach to Nursing Care


42 Ways to Say “No” (or Buy Time Until You Can)

by Margot Silk Forrest author of A Short Course in Kindness

A lot of us have difficulty saying “No.” This list, offered with compassion and a little humor, will help you get comfortable with turning people down, refusing to answer nosy or offensive questions, asking people to stop doing something you don’t like, and telling others you disagree them.

As you develop your “No” muscles, see if you can shift from saying “I can’t” to forthrightly saying “I won’t.” Also try exchanging “I don’t want you to…” for “Don’t.” You will feel vastly more empowered — and have more time for self-kindness and kindness to others when you do.

When Someone Asks You To Do Something For Them or With Them

  1. The enthusiastic (polite/helpful/etc.) part of me would like to say yes, but the rest of me is overcommitted (more realistic/unwilling/etc.).
  2. I don’t know. I’ll have to think that over.
  3. I wish I could help you out, but I’m overextended/ overcommitted right now.
  4. I’m going to pass. I’m really trying to slow down my pace these days.
  5. That’s something I’ll have to think about.
  6. I don’t have my calendar with me, but I can call and let you know tomorrow.
  7. Sorry, I’m already booked.
  8. No, I can’t make it after all. But it was nice of you to ask.
  9. I’ll think it over.
  10. Thanks, but I’m way too tired.
  11. No, that’s not really my thing.
  12. Don’t hold your breath!
  13. I have an appointment that day/night. (And you don’t have to say what it is!)
  14. That’s not for me, thanks.
  15. Oh, that sounds interesting. Let me think about it and get back to you.
  16. I’m not sure if I’m free that day/night. Let me check and call you tomorrow.
  17. Sorry, but my schedule is too full right now.
  18. The part that wants to make you happy wants to say yes, but the rest of me won the vote. I’ll pass.
  19. Thanks, but I don’t think I will.
  20. That’s not really something I enjoy.
  21. That doesn’t work for me.
  22. That doesn’t fit for me.
  23. When you want to have some fun saying no, try one of these:
    Not in this lifetime!     Forget it!     Dream on!     No way, Jose!
    You must be kidding!     Not in a million years!    Are you out of your mind?

When Someone Does, Asks, or Says or Asks Something Invasive

  1. I’m not comfortable with that.
  2. I’d like to ask you not to _________________________________.
  3. I’d like you to stop __________________________________.
  4. Please stop doing that. I don’t like it.
  5. I’m uncomfortable right now with what you’re saying/doing.
  6. That’s not something I talk about except with family.
  7. Let’s talk about something else.
  8. I want to keep that to myself.
  9. That’s my business.
  10. I’m surprised you think you have a right to that information.
  11. I don’t feel like talking about it.
  12. And you are asking me this because… ?? (Try saying this with a look of utter disbelief.)
  13. Sorry, that’s not something I talk about.
  14. I never answer questions like that.

When Someone Says Something You Disagree With

  1. I see it differently than you do.
  2. We certainly don’t agree about that.
  3. I have a different point of view.
  4. My experience of _______________________ is somewhat different.
  5. I hear what you are saying, but I don’t agree with it.

 Copyright © 2003 by Margot Silk Forrest


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