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Mental Health

How to Say ‘No’

Willing volunteers and helpers seem to have targets on their backs.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Willing volunteers and helpers seem to have targets on their backs.  They are continually asked to do more because they have a history of saying “yes.”  Finding enough help is a challenging task for event organizers, so they prefer to ask individuals who they think will be an easy yes.  Family members may also ask for help and even take advantage of one they view as an easy yes.  All this helping can wear you out and take a toll on your mental and physical health.  Sometimes enough is enough, and it’s time to say “no.”  But how?

“Thank you for asking.  Maybe next time.”

This response makes the person asking feel that you are happy to be considered for the task and that you may consider helping in the future.  It gives you the opportunity to say no without delving into any reasons why you cannot help this time.

“I cannot take on any more responsibilities at this time because ________.”

Use this when specific situations in your life are taking up too much of your time and you really have no more energy to give.  This response lets the requester know that you have a specific, logistical reason why you are unavailable.  Just be sure to tell the truth – being honest about a situation that is taking up extra amounts of your time just makes you more human.

“I know your organization is doing good things.  I will call you when I have time to donate.”

A response like this lets the person asking know that you respect what the group is doing.  It also lets the person know gently that you would prefer not to be asked, but that you will consider donating time on your own terms.

“I have several other organizations that need my help.”

This response lets the requester know that you do donate your time, but you are selective in choosing organizations.  Use it when you will most likely never give your time to this particular cause.  You can add “thanks for asking” if you want it to deliver your answer with more kindness. 


This answer is blunt.  It is best saved for repeated requests for something you have already declined.  It does nothing to give unintended hope for your future acquiescence. 

You do not have to say “yes” to every request that comes your way.  Manage your time the way you want and make your own priorities front and center.  There are multiple ways to politely, or not-so-politely, say “no.”

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