Saying no can be one of the most difficult tasks to master. But, once you do, you’ll find that setting and sticking to your boundaries will benefit you and all your relationships.
The other day, I was talking to one of my girls about my woes (lmao). She told me a story about this guy she met her first year at our college. Her being a new transfer student, she definitely welcomed the opportunity to make a new friend. However, this new friend in question had ulterior motives. One day, they were in the dining hall whereupon he essentially invited himself up to her suite to smoke. In the interest of being polite and a good friend, saying no didn’t feel like the best option. She said yes to the impromptu invitation even though she really did not want to have anyone in her suite. She had the intentions to eat and go home and chill by herself. As you can imagine, this guy in particular proceeded to hit on her until eventually he had to leave.
This is a story that I’ve heard many times before and have experienced. The difference between me and my friends though, is I don’t have a single problem saying no. Never have. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m very West Indian because we’re straightforward and tend to call a spade, a spade. If I don’t want to do something, I am very upfront about that.
Why do Women Have a Harder Time Saying No?
Women tend to have a harder time saying no. We’re socialized to be overtly considerate usually at the expense of our own comfort and feelings. While this can lead to awkward situations like the one my friend had, this also has dangerous consequences. Serial killers have said they take advantage of the kindness of their victims.
My goal for this list is to help you all out when it comes to saying no. No by itself is a full sentence but it’s the hardest for many of us, women especially, to say.
Also, if you need to soften these blows with emojis and/or explanation points, I get that too. The point is not how you say no, but being comfortable saying it. Release the pressure of feeling like you have are obligated to do things you don’t want to do. The aim is to be able to set your boundaries in the situation and get your desired outcome.
Tips to Say No More Often:
Scenario 1: There’s a function and your friends want you to pop out but you just don’t feel like it. You don’t need to explain because regardless of the reason, your feelings are valid. Point is, you don’t want to go, how do you say no?
- Friend, I love you and I have such a good time with you. But right now, I’m not where I need to be to enjoy a party. I just want to stay in and spend time with myself. But have a good time and be safe love.
- I’m just not in the mood. I’m in the mood to stay in, drink some tea and watch a movie. I’ll sit this one out but I’ll join you next time if I’m up for it.
- Truthfully, I don’t feel like poppin’ out tonight. I want to sit at home in some sweats and chill by myself.
- If you can handle maybe a kickback, suggest that instead of the party. If you want to be alone too though, that is okay. Say that and stick to your boundaries
- “Hey hun, I just don’t have the money for that at the moment so I’m gonna sit this one out.”
- I mean what they gon do, pay for your bottle service or brunch? They don’t want you to go that bad lmao. If they do, to be honest, I use my cramps as an excuse sometimes not gonna lie. However, in the interest of honesty and boundary setting, you can say, “that’s sweet but I’m not comfortable with that and I’d prefer to stay home this time. Thank you though!”
- And best of all, “nah fam, that ain’t it but you be blessed, beloved” (lmao I’m a clown I know).
Scenario 2a: Your partner wants you to link with them but you would rather hang out with your friends instead or stay in by yourself.
- Babe, today, I want to spend time with my friends instead. Can we make a plan for another day?
- I don’t have the emotional capacity for any human interaction right now. I think I need a self love/self care day. But I LOVE spending time with you, you know that, I just need some time to myself right now.
- Can we make a more chill plan for another day?
- I just want to Netflix and Chill by myself, but maybe we can facetime later (if you’re up for even facetiming, if you’re not that’s fine too, but that way they still can see you but it’s at a more chill time at the end of the day and after you’ve had time for yourself)
- Thank you so much for making this plan, I would love to do it another day. Today just isn’t a good mental health day for me and I would really like time to myself/ with my friends.
- And my fave lol, because I am too honest, “Nah babe, I’m not in the mood to link with you today. I’ll probably stay in or spend time with my girls.”
Your Partner is Allowed to Spend Time With Their Friends
- Just a note for my toxic partners: Your partner wanting to spend time with their friends instead of you is NORMAL. You should not be threatened by them linking with their friends or staying home. Y’all are not joined at the hip. You are individuals with lives, interests and relationships outside of your own and all spheres of your being need to be honored and respected. So if your partner wants to link with their friends instead, understand that and don’t get on a high horse about it. We all have friends lmao it’s okay. Truly.
Random Confession of Attraction-
Scenario 2b: Someone has expressed their undying love for you. Okay that’s dramatic but basically someone wants to pursue a romantic situation and you’re not feeling it.
Fun fact: I’ve been in this situation and I literally said, “I have a boyfriend (which I did at the time) but even if I didn’t have a boyfriend, I still wouldn’t want to pursue anything with you. I don’t believe we’re compatible and I don’t like you like that.”
Lol, the point is, you cannot be as bad as me.
- That’s so sweet but I don’t want to pursue anything like that with you. I really enjoy our relationship as it is right now.
- Thank you for your honesty and for telling me how you feel. I don’t feel the same way but I appreciate the role you have in my life right now and if you’re open to it, I’d love to continue being your friend. I also understand if you do not want to continue any interactions with me going forward.
- No, I’m not comfortable with pursuing anything with you but I appreciate you telling me and being honest.
- And here’s my note for this: If someone doesn’t want something with you. Accept it. Rejection is a part of life. It’s okay. What’s for you will be for you. So don’t take it personal and keep it pushing please and thank you (definitely more of a note for the cis heterosexual males reading this because whew. Some of y’all need to learn how to take no for an answer. Please. Ah beg)
With Your Significant Other-
Scenario 2c: Your significant other wants you to spend money on something for you whether it’s a gift or a date but you just do not have the funds or maybe you just don’t want to (so valid too). This is also assuming that there is reciprocity in the relationship and no one is a complete cheapskate mooching off the other but chile 👀, that’s an article for another day.
- Honey, you know I love spoiling you but, I really can’t swing that right now.
- I can’t take you out to that expensive dinner right now but can we do______ instead? (Suggest another more affordable option that still meets their needs without breaking your bank).
- Aww honey that sounds awesome and I wish I could go, but I just don’t have the money for that right now. I wish I could but I can’t. I’m sorry but please understand.
- A good gesture though, would be saving up so that in the next month or so you can take them out to do something or get them a gift that’s even better. Just so your partner knows it wasn’t you making an excuse, you heard them and genuinely tried to meet their desires.)
- I don’t have the money for that right now and I’m not sure when I’ll have the money for that (maybe you’re saving for a specific purpose, also feel valid in saying that), I hope you understand.
Don’t be Afraid to Say No When There’s Money Involved
Honestly, saying no in situations that require money is usually the easiest because people tend to understand when you can’t commit funds to specific outings or items. So, if your partner is making a huff about that, definitely take note of that because if you’ve been an engaged partner have spoiled them as much as they’ve spoiled you, they should understand why you’re saying no. If they don’t then there’s something within them you might need to recognize or maybe your partner feels like you haven’t been meeting their needs as well as you could be and this is just another example of that. Either way, try to get to the root of the situation if this actually causes a problem.
Tips for Saying No to Zoom
When the time doesn’t work for you-
Scenario 3a: For whatever reason, your colleagues, friends, family want to set up a zoom call and while we are in the house with not much to do, you just don’t want to participate. How do you say no? And remember, IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE FREE TIME. Your time is yours and yours alone, so don’t let people think they have unlimited access to it because they don’t😊
- Be clear about the time you have to dedicate because even if we’re in the house, you’re not free for a call at anytime. Yes taking time for yourself counts as a priority and an activity. So if you’re only free from 5 to 6, say that.
- “I would really love to be a part of this conversation/activity but I’m only free from ____ to ______. I hope we can make something work but if not, I’ll join in next time if I’m available.
- Hi, I’m not available that day, is it possible for us to do this day and time instead?
- Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a zoom recording to be sent out. All the other people who cannot attend as well will also benefit from that.
When the call gets a little too long-
Scenario 3b: The zoom call is a ~little~ too long and you don’t really have anywhere to be (or maybe you do) but you just want to dip. Also remember the chat function is at your disposal if you get anxiety talking/interjecting to say bye.
- I really enjoyed our conversation but I have another task to get done for today that I need to attend to. Have a good rest of your day everyone. I’m Looking forward to speaking with you all again in the future!
- Thank you all for this conversation. Unfortunately, I need to leave but we’ll talk again soon!
- Really any variation of thank you and bye will get the job done here. Don’t be afraid to peace out especially when the zoom has gone over an hour. Zoom fatigue is real and valid.
Saying No Professionally:
Turning down an opportunity-
Scenario 4: You’re being offered a professional opportunity but you really cannot handle it right now or you’re simply not interested. This actually happened to me the other day. Someone reached out to me to join a blog collective because of some previous work I had done, but because I’m focusing on this website and my other projects I responded: “Hi ____, thank you so much for reaching out! I’m currently building my own blog/website so I will be focusing my energy and time on that but if anything, I will reach out to you again in the future. Best of luck with this project!” and that got the point across in a clear and professional way.
If something doesn’t fit for you at the time, don’t be afraid to express that if you have the privilege to turn the opportunity down. I totally understand taking a job out of financial need as well but if you have the ability to choose and you’re not in any immediate financial need that this job can possible help with, don’t be afraid to say no.
Go to phrases-
- Unfortunately, I have too many commitments at this time and I wouldn’t be able to perform in the role to my fullest capacity so I have to say no at this time but thank you for considering me for this opportunity.
- This sounds like a really interesting opportunity. Unfortunately, I cannot pursue it at this time but thank you so much for considering me.
- Usually any variation of those two tends to get the job done in this scenario.
- This is what I said one time I got a professional opportunity that I was interested in but could not do: Dear ____, unfortunatley, I can’t do the research position this semester because I ended up getting an internship. However, I would love to work with you on a project like this in the future so I’ll definitely reach out next semester.”
- And now I’m pursuing this opportunity this semester. Everything happens in its own time and it’s okay to turn something down now to pursue it later in the future when you are more equipped to take it on. Also, maintaining a relationship with that company/hiring manager/individual, whoever it is, is a helpful way to make sure you’re still in the loop about opportunities to take that position on in the future or pursue other interesting positions they might create or open up later on.
When Saying No is Dangerous:
Also, there are situations where you can’t be as upfront, particularly as women or LGTBQ+ individuals, if people are following us or being creepy, the goal in that situation is to get to a safe place and stay alive. So in those scenarios maybe you have to dance around saying no or just straight up ignore them, and that sucks. Trust me. I’ve been there and I understand but also don’t waiver on your boundaries and never go somewhere with someone who makes you feel unsafe. TRUST YOUR GUT PLEASE. Sorry, I’m also the mom friend and that had to be said.
I totally get that there are scenarios where our no’s and our boundaries won’t be respected. In those cases, keep your distance from them and create distance between y’all if they’re not respecting that, walk into a public place immediately if you can and call a friend (Check out the Clutch app! I also use Life360 with my parents for safety). That’s a disturbing reality but it’s the reality nonetheless. But I guess that’s why I want us, especially women and those within the LGBTQ+ community, to get better at saying no because there are situations where we can have control and where we can and should set boundaries. It is an act of self love to do that.
Saying No is About Honesty to Yourself and to Others
I honestly love how friend described it:
Saying no for me just really is about being honest about my feelings and being honest in my relationships. If I’m doing something with you or pursuing a professional opportunity, it’s because I really want to do it, not because I feel forced to or obligated.
Now, here’s the flipside of saying no. We as a society NEED to get better at listening to people and respecting the word no. If your friend doesn’t want to go out, understand that. It’s okay they’ll come out another time. If your coworker can’t assist you with a project, understand they’re probably busy and don’t have the time to help you. Or maybe, they’re just not interested in helping or taking on the extra work. THAT IS OKAY. If your partner wants to spend time with their homies, hear them and understand that. Y’all can link another time. Be comfortable taking no for an answer. We all have our own needs and being able to set boundaries and take care of ourselves first actually strengthens our relationships in all facets of our lives.