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4 Creative Ways to Say “No” When People Make Requests for Your Time

By Sheryl Nicholson February 24, 2023 Lifestyle

Have you received more requests lately because you have retired, or work from home? People often think that since you are not going in to a 9 to 5 job, you are available to meet their needs.

Have you been asked to make grocery and doctor trips, join committees or babysit? Have you had requests to serve volunteer hours and run errands? You do have more flexibility and with that you need to have tools to manage your time. One of the best tools is knowing how and when to say “No.”

Say ‘No’ with an Assertive Tone

Have you ever just sat, watched and listened to conversations? Oftentimes you will hear requests from one party to another, and, if a male is included, he will easily reply with a “No.” Women tend to have a little bit more of an issue with that word.

I believe that many of us feel it’s our job to over-help, over-do and over-extend! The reality is that’s not our job!

We need good assertive sentences and the right tone of voice to say ‘No’ and have it heard positively. And remember, you can sabotage yourself unwittingly if your body language does not match your tone of voice.

So where do you start? Understand that saying ‘No’ to others can mean saying ‘Yes’ to yourself and yours!

It’s all a break down in assumption and communication. Clearly, the ball is in your court to fix this issue. Start with always assuming the best in people. They just didn’t know you are busy.

Decide for Yourself

Ask yourself these questions when confronted by someone wanting a yes from you:

#1: Will it advance my life or the lives of others?

#2: Is it in alignment with my integrity?

#3: Can I live with the consequences of saying ‘No’ to this person?

#4: Does this person have my best interests at heart, in no way abusing this opportunity?

Sample No’s

Then, if you are ready to say ‘no,’ take three deep belly breaths to lower your voice and add strength to your response. Make sure you stand upright and are ‘rooted.’ There are creative ways to still support, without sacrificing yourself. Here are 4 responses you can make:

  • No, I can’t do that errand (take you to the doctor, or babysit, or whatever) on Thursday. I leave half a day a week for that, so I can help you on _______.
  • No, I don’t want to host Christmas. I’m open to hosting Easter, however. That will work for you, won’t it?
  • No, I have served actively with this group, and I believe it’s best to grow new members. Have you thought about asking Julie to hold that position? I know she’d be great!
  • No, I can’t sit and sell at the church garage sale. I am happy to either bake and donate (or feed) or write a donation check.

Reverse the Tables?

Now expect a long pause. After all, they’ve been able to get a ‘yes’ from you for years. They’re in shock and could respond in any number of ways. They might try to turn the tables by using the following tactics:


“What do you mean ‘no’? You’re always there. I need you on my team. I’ve always been able to count on you.”


“But your house is bigger and everyone feels comfortable there.”


“Everybody’s counting on you. We need you to be there. I don’t have anyone else.”


“Well, I had something I wanted to give you while you were (t)here.”


“Please just this one time. I promise I won’t ask you again.” (Don’t believe this one.)


“OK, thanks. I knew I could count on you.”


“We need you, this is your responsibility.”

Hold Your Ground

With any of the answers above, you simply use the technique called ‘repetitive assertion’ and repeat your first response again. If they still aren’t listening, repeat it up to three times. Remember to use a level tone of voice as it is important to convey a strong and non-aggressive message.

Don’t use the words “I’m sorry.” You’ll sound passive, like you did something you weren’t supposed to and you actually regret it. Remember, it is your life, your time and your choice! Live well!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have difficulty saying ‘no’ to someone who requests your help? What do you do in such situations? What is your ‘no’ technique? Please share it in the comments below.

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Catherine Vance

An excellent article. The author summarized beautifully
and gave good examples for people. Great job.


Thanks for the refresher on saying no.


I need to stop doing some of the things I agreed to by not saying no. That’s a whole different ball of worms


It is amazing how when I retired certain people thought I was free to take over their errands, I’d hear, “But you’re retired.” or “but I have a job and a child to take care of and you don’t.” Sometimes, as it stays in the header of your article, the best response is to say, “No.” and to remember that it is, indeed, a complete sentence. You aren’t required to discuss your reasons with them.


So very true! My old, but effective, stand-by…..”What is it about the word No you don’t understand?”. Said with a smile, of course.

Shelly Little

I love this article! I have not had a problem saying no or reversing the guilt trip back on them. Your time is precious and not unlimited.

The Author

Sheryl Nicholson is an international professional speaker, author and podcaster known for her authenticity and results-oriented tips. She relates quickly to women and their real-life challenges at work and in their "love space." Her work-life balance podcast is available on iTunes. She shares leadership tips at her website

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