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How to say “No” without sounding like a total jerk

Like a lot of people, I have  a hard time saying no. whether it spiking up that extra shift, going to that late night hangout, or letting a friend borrow your precious car, I crumble under the pressure of not wanting to disappoint. No one wants to miss out on an opportunity to help a friend in need or have your friends end up hating you because you ditched the case race for a midterm paper instead.

It may be hard to believe, but it’s okay to say no.

Be honest

No matter what bind you’re in, most people will understand that you just don’t have time for something. You don’t have to give some crazy excuse like your dog getting ran over by the ice cream truck, especially if you already used that one. People are way more accepting of honesty than any lame excuse you can come up with. 

The Guardian

Apart from not having the time or ability to do something, there could be hundred of reasons why you might not want to do something. When your too-touchy coworker invites you to play with his rats over the weekend, or asks for help moving out of his bungalow, give a simple “I can’t at that time” or “I’m not sure if I’m free.” You don’t always have to answer right away, you can just inform people that you will let them know a little later. Then, when the time comes, you can either give the one word response, spill your guts about hating rats, or come up with an elaborate lie about your emergency book club meeting.

Know your limits

What crosses your mind when someone asks you to help them out? For me, it’s usually something like “Oh god, I do not have time for that this week. “  Even if you think you could squeeze in another event like you did for your sorority’s formal with your old homecoming dress, you should really consider it. Will it set you back in other, more important areas? But most importantly, is it enjoyable?

Another way to look at it is where would this fit in your google calendar? If it’s between “Chem 101” and “crying after Chem 101” I would say that you should say no, or just reschedule.

Help them out in another way

If you really feel that bad about saying no, you find an alternate way to solve their problems. Maybe, it really just is a scheduling issue. If it’s something that is not directly towards you, don’t answer. Or, if they do start asking you, try to see if there is someone else who with more free time than you. Although you’re not directly helping out, you are saying no and kind of helping them find someone else.

When it really has to be you in a situation, find a time when you really are free and can easily devote your time to it.

Try it out

The first step in saying no, is realizing  that you suck at doing so. You won’t be able to say no to everything immediately, but small steps lead you in the right direction. Give these steps a try and see if you too can start saying no.

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