4 Fresh Ways to Say No and Still Be Polite

4 Fresh Ways to Say No and Still Be Polite

The O’Daily is a toddler.

“No” is our favorite word!

We talk about:

As someone who loves to say yes, I am forever researching and practicing “no.”

I learn, you learn.

Here’s 4 more, totally fresh ways to say no.

Which is really saying YES…to your priorities, deep work, and highest goals!

Say No Without Apology: 4 Key Phrases

1. I have a conflict at that time.

No explanation needed. It could be a customer meeting or a nap.

I usually follow it up with a friendly “feel free to proceed without me” or “would xyz work?”

It saves you time and energy of trying to explain why you can’t.

It’s hard to manage your time if you need a “good” reason to say no or explain your busyness.

A friend shared this tip and she said no one has ever asked her to justify her conflict.

2. Let’s talk over email.

Another pro-level phrase I learned recently.

If something doesn’t need a call or meeting, keep it friendly, helpful, and asynchronous.

For certain meetings (usually folks looking for startup jobs), I find myself sharing the same resources every time. I’ve started sending job boards or job openings via email and keeping their resume on file in lieu of a 30 minute get-to-know-you meeting.

3. I have <this non-negotiable thing>.

Can’t stomach saying no without a really good reason?

Schedule out your most important priorities and leverage non-negotiable commitments.


  • Team offsites to work on the business
  • Executive coaching sessions for personal growth
  • Personal training or workout classes
  • Taking care of pets/kids (NOTE: children are not a time-saving strategy overall 😂)
  • Vacations, concerts, dinners with friends
  • Training for a race
  • Book club
  • Family dinners
  • Telling your readers you will write a blog every week 🙃

Important personal and professional commitments create built-in, default boundaries.

For me, triathlon training was a great forcing function for healthy habits and time management. Now, with kids, daycare drop off, family dinners, and sport practices are natural time constraints that force me to prioritize.  

4. I have <this rule about my time>.

Want boundaries without feeling overscheduled?

Another strategy is to make rules about your time:

  • I do one evening event per week.
  • I do Zoom meetings in the afternoons.
  • I work remote on Fridays.

It may seem arbitrary or artificial but over time it will become automatic and non-negotiable.

Anyone who values time, efficiency, and deep work (aka most people!) will understand and respect it.


What other phrases do you use to say no while still being polite?