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35 Unique Ways To Say No—To People Who Won’t Take No For An Answer

Melissa Batchelor Warnke
3 min read
July 19, 2018
35 Unique Ways To Say No—To People Who Won’t Take No For An Answer

Sometimes, for whatever reason, people aren’t on your page. They’re not picking up what you’re putting down. They’re not catchin’ your drift. You’ve already said no—to taking on more work when you’re already drowning in it; to co-hosting an over-the-top bachelorette party you can’t afford; to having out-of-town guests crash on your futon for the fourth weekend in a row.

But these people don’t seem to be listening. You need to reiterate your “no,” but maybe saying that word (directly to your boss, for example) isn’t a possibility. Fear not! There are other ways to say “no” without actually saying it. Some are silly, some are more serious, but all should serve as a reminder to yourself; you have every right to say “no.”

As part of our month-longBoundaries Season” series, we’d like to offer you a few more ways to get your point across.

When you’re feeling pop-cultural…

“I’ll set the building on fire.” — Office Space

“Cancel my subscription, I’m over your issues.” — Popular

“Yeah, that’s gonna be a no from me, dawg.” — Randy Jackson, American Idol

“I’d love to stay and chat, but I don’t wanna stay and chat.” — Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

“I’m not sure I’m interested in that. No, I am sure. I am not interested in that.” — Parks And Rec

When you’re feeling musical…

“Just one thing I ask of you / Just one thing for me / Please forget you knew my name.” — Grateful Dead, “Sugaree

“Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” — Joni Mitchell, “River

“I had a dream my life would be / So much better than this hell I’m living.” — Les Miserables, “I Dreamed A Dream

“It ain’t me, babe / No, no, no, it sure ain’t me, babe / It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.” — Bob Dylan, “It Ain’t Me, Babe

When you’re feeling literary…

“I would prefer not to.” — Herman Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street

“Can’t and won’t.” — Lydia Davis, Can’t and Won’t

“There are many ways to be free. One of them is to transcend reality by imagination, as I try to do.” — Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1944–1947 *Pro tip: Say this while looking sadly out the window.*

“…Being in your presence for any length of time depresses the hell out of me and I don’t need this shit, who needs this shit, so I’m like out of here.” — Terry McMillan, How Stella Got Her Groove Back

When you’re feeling rude…

“I’d love to, but I have to wash my hair.”

“Thank you for reminding me of my deep need for personal space.”

“Just not sure that’s cost-effective, when you factor in the price of my time.”

“Thoreau supposedly said, ‘A man can suffocate on courtesy.’ And I am damn near dead.”

When you’re feeling desperate…

“Feel free to remove me from this email chain.”

“I’ve tried to be really clear with you and I’d hate to have to escalate this, but I can if that works better for you.”

When you’re feeling mysterious…

“Would that I could.”

“This isn’t a fit for me.”

“I can’t make that work.”

When you’re feeling interpersonal…

“So, I’ve already explained why I can’t do that and thanks in advance for acknowledging and respecting my boundaries.”

“I care about our relationship which is why I want to preserve it. And in order to do that, I’m gonna need you to hear me on this.”

When you’re feeling corporate…

“Wish I had the bandwidth to help you with that.”

“That’s not aligned with my priorities right now.”

“As I said, I will get back to you on X date. There’s no need to check in with me before then.”

“I’m not taking on any new projects right now.”

“I’m unavailable; have you talked to X?”

When you’re feeling like Oprah…

“‘No’ is a compete sentence.”

When you’re feeling direct…

“I’m going to pass on that.”

“Not today. Or any other, for that matter.”

“Yeah, no.”

“Nah, I’m good.”

“Goodbye forever.”