Don’t Say Maybe if You Want to Say No

Oh man, there is a special place in my heart for people who say no. And you can better believe I’m one of them.

In some ways, I fear that it makes it less likely for people to ask me to do things, but I SWEAR it makes me a better person. When I do make plans with you – you KNOW it’s because I want to be there and that I’m not going to bail on you at the last minute.

Looking at it from the other side, I also know I’d much rather spend my time with people who really want to spend time with me, rather than people who don’t. So stop saying maybe when you want to say no, whether it’s to the guy who’s asking you out who you don’t see a future with, the deadline your boss is setting for you, or those Friday night plans you know you’re going to ditch last minute anyways because you want to chill.

This is especially something I see in the dating world. People would so much rather just go on another date or quietly fade into the distance, rather than tell you directly that they aren’t interested. Aziz Ansari talked about this in his standup show on Netflix – asking the entire room if they ghost on people, and then following up to ask if people would prefer someone told them they weren’t interested.

As expected, everyone wanted the other person to tell them when they weren’t interested, but no one wanted to be the person who actually told someone else.

So here are my tips for becoming better at saying no:


Cut things off before he asks you out again.
The most awkward of awkward dating situations is when a guy asks you out again immediately after a date that you had a bad time on. I always try to speak first at the end of these dates, usually simply saying that it was nice meeting them. I typically find that unless both people really had a great time, they wait to follow up for a next date until you leave.

Keep it vague.
A guy doesn’t need to know why exactly you called things off. Even if there was a specific moment in your head that made you no longer want date two or three, unless it was truly a horrible experience, try to just let him off easy. Usually after a date, if I know I don’t want to see the guy again, but I think he’ll ask me out, I try to get out in front of it. Usually a short text that explains that it was nice to meet him but I don’t think we’re looking for the same thing does the trick. This saves him the embarrassment of being turned down and saves you from having to figure out how to respond to being asked out again.

This is obviously different if you’ve established a relationship. That’s a bigger conversation most likely worth more than a text.


Change your mindset.
Instead of thinking about the people you’re “disappointing” (spoiler alert: you’re not), think about the time for you and what you want to do instead. Saying no is actually so you can say yes to things you actually want to do.

Schedule in me time.
No one has to know your Friday night plans are with your couch. You can say you’re busy or have plans, even if those plans are with yourself. I don’t think a single person loves being overbooked and stressed out. I know that once I see a week or a month getting filled up with lots of weekend plans, I’ll block off a weeknight or a weekend with “plan nothing” as my reminder.

Have a go-to phrase.
A lot of the time you get sucked into things you don’t want to do is because you’re unprepared to respond and just say yes on default. So instead of going to yes immediately, have a few phrases that you can easily say when you get asked to do something you don’t want to do.

While I’m comfortable just saying a flat out out “No thanks, I’m good,” I’d suggest starting with “I have plans already,” (see above – those plans could just be with yourself!) or “How fun, but I can’t that day.”

Provide alternatives.
The best advice I have for saying no at work is to suggest an alternative. So if your boss has this wild idea you actually hate, instead of saying “No, that won’t work,” suggest another tactic with the same goal in mind instead.

Discuss whether or not it fits within your goals.
When you say yes to too many projects at work, it can seem like you’re going to lose out on a promotion if you take anything off your plate. When I find myself in this situation, I look back at my job description and any goals I agreed to with my boss and make sure my tasks reflect that list of goals. If there are tasks that don’t align with your goals, it’s a lot easier to go to your boss and talk through if you should re-prioritize, change your goals, or take on more work (and renegotiate your salary).

Do you find yourself saying yes when you want to say no?

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