Michael Sterling

Self-Preservation 101: 9 Ways to Say “No!”


You’re busy. You’re in demand. You’re stressed. Sound familiar? If you find you’re always stretched too thin, it’s time for a crash course in self-preservation.


Whether it’s the boss, a co-worker, spouse or community group – we deal with a variety of demands for our time. Regardless if you’re being asked to take on a new project, join another charity Board of Directors or attend an associate’s dinner party, requests for our time and energy seem un-ending. Learning to say “no” is a critical life skill.


Most people say “yes” because they want to be a team player, model positive workplace attitude or simply to be liked. But the ability to say “no” is actually an asset. It earns you respect, allows you to focus and saves your sanity.


Often individuals say agree to take on yet another commitment because they are at a loss on how to say “no.” The best approach is to be brief and firm – all while being polite.


9 Ways to Say NO!


  1. I am fully committed to other projects. I’m unable to add to the list unless we can agree upon what current project to place on a back burner.
  2. No, I can’t do that, but here’s what I can do….
  3. Thanks, I’d like to, but I’m unable.
  4. I’m not able to commit to that right now.
  5. I can’t give you an immediate answer, will you check back with me?
  6. I’m going to say no for now. I’ll let you know if something changes.
  7. I’m honored you would ask me, but my answer has to be no.
  8. I don’t have the time to give to that right now. Thanks for thinking of me.


Setting boundaries and clearly defining them will allow you to focus on true priorities and be successful in the activities that are core to your professional and personal goals. Having some go-to ways to decline and deflect requests, which will take you off task or push you past your limits, is a guaranteed way to save your sanity and earn respect.


SterlingFreeman provides career coaching and recruiting exclusively for Public Accountants. This time of year – tax season – the ability to say “no” is a necessary skill in order to meet IRS deadlines. However, learning to say “no” is a trait that everyone should hone. I’d like to hear ways you guard your time. Connect with me on LinkedIn. Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website.


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